Open Thinkering


Month: September 2022

Weeknote 38/2022

Laptop covered in stickers

Every weekend when I sit down to write these, I cast my mind back over the previous week’s events, and it seems that there’s always something dramatic that’s happened. This week, in order or drama: I had a suspected minor heart attack, helped talked a man down from jumping off a bridge, and accidentally set off all of the smoke alarms in our three-storey house at 1am.

First things first: my hospital visit. I’ve written about it here, so I’ll just say that on Tuesday I ended up spending six hours having tests which revealed I had slightly elevated levels of Troponin. This is a protein released by the heart when it’s damaged. It can be impacted by intense exercise as well as other factors. It seems I’m OK, and have been told I can exercise as usual, but I’m taking it easy.

I wasn’t far into a gentle run on Friday when I went past a man who was acting strangely on a bridge I was running over. Over the last few months, Zoë Rose has been sharing on LinkedIn what she’s learned from doing suicide prevention training, including asking a very direct question. So I stopped, and said, “you’re not thinking of jumping off there, are you?” The man, in his twenties, didn’t say “no”, so I stayed and talked to him for a good 20 minutes. His life story was horrific and he was very drunk, especially for 11 o’ clock in the morning.

I asked someone who happened to be taking a photo from the bridge to phone the police, and when they arrived, from both sides of the bridge, it turns out he was well known to them. I’m not sure whether he would have jumped without me being there, and I’m not sure if the drop would have done him much damage, but I’m glad that what Zoë shared meant I could help in a small way.

The smoke alarm mini-drama just increased my tiredness levels. My son was a bit freaked out by a weird ‘chirping’ sound coming from downstairs. I’m not sure what he thought it was, but it was just our mains-powered dining room smoke alarm chirping to let us know that the backup battery was running out. I’m not sure whether it was because it was 1am but it seemed to take me a long time to figure out how to take the unit apart. I’m just pleased we happened to have a spare 9v battery in the cupboard. I’m changing the other seven during the daytime this week to prevent that happening again!

I don’t believe in monarchy, and no-one was paying me to take the day off, so I worked through the extra Bank Holiday due to the Queen’s funeral. That being said, work has kind of taken a bit of a back seat due to the events recounted above.

One thing I am glad we’ve managed to get sorted is to book accommodation for our first WAO in-person meetup just north of Amsterdam in January 2023. It will be the first time since before the pandemic, although I did see Laura and Anne IRL at The Badge Summit in Colorado last month!

Other than that I’ve been working across various WAO client projects, as well as helping out the Bonfire team. The latter have released a significant update to the Playground instance; I’ve recorded a Loom video giving a quick overview of how it’s going beyond microblogging to become a real federated app toolkit.

Other than that, I’ve been collaborating on a new email course called How to Unf*ck Your Organisation which brings together some of WAO’s tools and approaches to help with organisational strategy and architecture.

It’s a significant birthday for Laura this weekend, and there’s a good chance she’ll read this, so Happy Birthday! 🥳

Next week, I’m working on WAO client work, some content design for the Bonfire website, responding to questions from NLnet around a bid we submitted, having a flu jab, and getting an MRI scan. And, of course, bracing myself for whatever drama life decides to throw at me…

Header image: my Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga laptop, covered in stickers!

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

They say that as you get older, you get to know yourself better. I think that’s true on several levels: over the last decade in particular I’ve got to know my physical limits and quirks, my emotional temperature in different situations, as well as my spiritual leanings.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to get to know myself even better by spending six hours in hospital. This, apparently, was unrelated to my previous episode, and followed 45 minutes of literally heart-wrenching pain in the night. If you know the scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the first 15 minutes of that pain felt like the temple priest forcing his hand into the prisoner’s chest and ripping out his heart.

Fun times.

I won’t give a blow-by-blow account, but suffice to say that I was looked after well (as ever) by the NHS with care and attention. The reason I was in for so long was because I had to have two ECGs and two blood tests a certain number of hours apart. This revealed that I had slightly elevated levels of Troponin, a protein released by the heart when it’s damaged. This damage can occur when it’s stressed through exercise, so it’s normal to have some Troponin in the blood, even when you’re otherwise healthy.

I was discharged when the cardiac consultant said he wasn’t too concerned that my Troponin levels were showing 15 when the ‘normal’ scale goes up to 14. I have to go back if I have any problems and I’m allowed to continue my normal exercise regime.

Both yesterday and a couple of weeks ago I found myself having to tell the story of what happened multiple times. As a patient, you’re also kind of expected to remember anything that might be at all relevant, including all of the details of it. My wife works for NHS Digital, so I have a small insight into some of the difficulties of sharing data even within the same hospital, never mind between services.

But it got me thinking.

In the film Her (2013) the main protagonist falls in love with his very human-sounding AI, who acts on his behalf in many different situations. What I’d like is some type of machine learning that works on my behalf with my data, and surfaces potentially-relevant things to healthcare professionals.

With the best will in the world, busy doctors can’t have read every bit of relevant information about every injury and health condition. Nor can they surface data from quite newly-presenting symptoms, for example with heart conditions that may or may not be related to Covid.

I realise this is a very long way off, and that I’ve acted against this by refusing to share my health data with third-party services. But I’d love something to use something that I could actually trust, and provided benefit both to me as a patient and to the healthcare professionals trying to help me. I’m sure people are working on it. I just hope they have patient care instead of $$$ in mind.

Title from Adam Curtis’ excellent documentary series. Image by Deepmind.

Weeknote 37/2022

St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay

This week has definitely seen a change in seasons where I live in the north of England. Out with the warm mornings in which I’d happily go for a run; in with the colder air and sluggish starts to the day. It’s also had an effect on my sleeping patterns and migraines.

There’s been plenty of work to do this week, particularly of the kind that involve meetings. Although it’s all been quite pleasant toil, I was pleased when Friday came around and I could take it a bit easier. A meeting at Newcastle University was postponed, and I ended up sitting in a coffee shop working on a blog post related to a book I’ve been reading recently.

I began the week with a WAO half-day, which we do every month. This particular one involved me spending quite a lot of time with John working on an update to our ‘State of the Union’ spreadsheet which aims to give a financial snapshot of our co-op at any given time. I’ll not bore you with the details, but the general gist is that (a) it was set up in a time when we tended to do one-off projects, rather than repeat work with clients, and (b) it wasn’t set up to show how much would be in our ‘pot’ after the 25% for confirmed contracts with clients was taken off.

The stimulus for working on the spreadsheet was a desire to meet up as a co-op face-to-face in January. Perhaps in Amsterdam. We haven’t booked anything yet, though.

The rest of the week was spent with Laura and Anne figuring out the details of taking over the entirety of the Open Working strand for some work with the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) under the umbrella of Sport England. We need to re-scope the work as a result, so I also hung out with Outlandish for a bit as they’re running one of the data strands for the NGBs.

In addition to that we did some work on the Participate-funded Keep Badges Weird project, including running a Badge Wiki barn-raising session with community members. I also enjoyed a wide-ranging chat as part of the Open Recognition working group of the Open Skills Network.

Other than that, I did some user research with John for some work we’re doing with Happy Porch and Common Knowledge for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance new digital platform. I met with people from LocalGov Drupal and the University of Strathclyde about various things. And I started a new social network related to fitness/exercise (my profile).

Here, I published:

Over at Thought Shrapnel I published:

We found out this week that our daughter was successful in getting into Newcastle United’s Emerging Talent Centre (ETC). There will be 70 ETCs around the country by the end of next season, with around 4,000 girls taking part over the age ranges. I’m delighted she’s got in to this form of academy, as it means she can also play for her new club team as well.

Next week, I’m working across five different projects as well as recording an episode of Season 5 of The Tao of WAO podcast with Laura. In my head, I was going to spend each Friday night camping in September, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I’ve been more tired than usual, even though I’ve been doing the same amount of exercise as usual. Must be the change in seasons.

Photo of St Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay taken during a run I went on while my daughter was training with her football team.