Open Thinkering


Month: January 2023

Weeknote 04/2023

Cracked tiles (decorative)

I guess I should start this week’s update by saying hello to my son’s friends, who seem to have discovered this blog. I’m pleased you’re reading something, guys! Congrats on ripping your eyeballs away from TikTok for more than three seconds.

Now that we’ve reached the second paragraph and we’re safely beyond the average 16 year-old attention span, I can get down to business. I’m not going to lie: this week has felt quite long. This was partly because Hannah was away for a couple of nights meaning I had to do some solo parenting (always ‘fun’) but also because John came down with something which meant I was covering for him on the WAO projects we’re working on together.

While there’s been a lot of context-switching this week, I have enjoyed the diversity of the types of work with which I’ve been involved:

  • Publishing a blog post about last week’s WAO meetup in The Netherlands.
  • Writing a digital strategy (currently at v0.3) and a sunsetting / testing plan for a new community platform.
  • Chatting with a couple of people who booked a meeting with me, one about Open Badges, and the other a more wide-ranging chat about digital approaches to preserving a peninsula in Costa Rica from over-development.
  • Creating the first draft of competencies and skills around an existing (and successful!) course that Laura invented and I have been working on for a while.
  • Running a workshop on community engagement which included a useful pre-mortem activity.
  • Testing and giving feedback on a client’s new platform which is taking shape.
  • Giving feedback on session plans and slide decks for a new client’s upcoming offsite both asynchronously and in office hours sessions.
  • Having an in-depth chat with the only person who came along to a different office hours session about open working.
  • Collaborating with CoTech members about creating a ‘digital candle’ style service for people who have been affected by the tech layoffs and might be interested in setting up their own co-op.
  • Engaging in some business development, as although we’ve got plenty on now, it’s important to have a pipeline so we don’t run out!

I had my first proper migraine of 2023 this week. They don’t affect me as much as they used to in terms of their intensity, but I guess they have a more wide-ranging impact in that I both consciously and unconsciously adapt my life to avoid triggering them.

My son said that I often talk more about my daughter’s sporting achievements than his. This is partly because I tend to write these on Saturday afternoons, after she’s played a football match in the morning, but before his basketball and football games. So I definitely won’t mention that she scored a hat-trick and received Player of the Match again. Whoops.

Anyway, I’m very proud of him in a way that will probably make him cringe if and when he reads this. He asked for an English tutor after he got his mock GCSE exam results last Friday and had his first session this week. She said how she’d learned things from him in terms of the way he interprets texts.

My son’s basketball team has just been promoted back to the top division, so I’m looking forward to that game this afternoon. He’s got a football match tomorrow and my daughter’s making her debut for a boy’s team that she’s recently signed for. Yes, my weekends largely involve driving my kids to sporting fixture and watching them perform. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Next week will almost inexplicably include days that mark the start of February. I’ll be involved in the same projects as this week, although hopefully John will be better. I’m looking forward to getting that CoTech digital candle service up-and-running, fixing my iPod (again!) and having a more normal week where neither Hannah nor I’m away.

Image taken from an original by Vincent Burkhead

Weeknote 03/2023

Windmill next to a canal

I’ve spent most of this week in the Netherlands with my WAO colleagues. We stayed in an American-style villa north of Amsterdam, complete with jacuzzi, ping pong table, and trampoline! Instead of client work we worked on things like the journey we’ve been on since being founded in 2016, how we can have a more consistent approach to projects, and contributor pathways.

A big part of meeting up together, though, was just to be in the same place for the first time in three years. Due to the pandemic, it was the first time Anne, our intern-turned-cooperator had met John and Bryan IRL. So Laura taught us all different types of poker (for peanut M&Ms), we played video games, went out for dinner, as well as going to an awesome ‘new school arcade hall’ called TonTon Club. Some of us also managed to sneak in a run.

Back at the ranch, it was another birthday celebration which we celebrated in Newcastle-upon-Tyne at Lane 7 and I Scream For Pizza. Everyone had a great time, and Hannah won bowling for the first time in Team Belshaw history. Our daughter played in a football match where she scored a hat-trick and was awarded player of the match. The Boy has a game today.

Weekly timeline showing Garmin 'body battery' score

What’s been interesting to me this week is being able to see (with data!) the impact that increased alcohol consumption, less protein, and later bedtimes has had on my body. While I had a great time, routines are important to feel well-rested — as you can see on the Garmin ‘Body Battery’ chart above!

Next week will be back to client work. Part of our time away was to kind-of-formalise having a Project Lead and a ‘Context Understudy’ for each client. We couldn’t really think of a name other than something like ‘Skills Provider’ for other roles, but I’m sure the naming and approach will evolve. For me, it means that while I’ll probably still be involved in some way with each of the seven projects we’ve got on at the moment, I don’t have to keep the context for all of them in my head 😅

Photo of windmill near Heerhugowaard

Weeknote 02/2023

Artificial pitch with corner flag

It’s been back to work this week after a three-week break during the festive period. Starting the year off with seven projects for the first time as a four person co-op means a fair bit of context-switching! As a one-off this week, and because we’ve got an in-person meetup next week, we freestyled it a bit. Usually, we try and dedicate a half-day for each project, but the demands of the first days back meant that wasn’t possible.

These are our clients at the moment:

It’s also been back to school for our kids, with our eldest entering the home straight in his GCSE year. It’s a bit of a dance with teenagers, as on the one hand you want to push them to be able to achieve the best they possibly can. On the other, you want to make sure you don’t pile so much pressure on that they crumble. Parenting: perhaps one of the hardest job there is.

In this two-week period we celebrate the birthdays of both children, so not even a month after Christmas there’s more presents to buy and wrap, and parties/events to plan. I can see why people have expressed sympathy for my own birthday being so close to Christmas, but it’s mainly annoying for parents (financially, emotionally…)

Our daughter tried out for a ‘boys’ team this week and got into to it, so that’s five teams she plays for now (girls team, boys team, County, Newcastle ETC, school). Thankfully, a lot of Team Belshaw’s time revolves around sport so it’s just another fixture to throw into the mix. I do take a lot of pleasure from watching both of them playing sport to a decent level, to be honest.

I’m in better health this week after picking up some kind of virus that laid me low last week. It didn’t confine me to bed at any time, but it did make me feel rough and affect both my sleeping patterns and exercise regime. As I’m susceptible to migraines, the three ‘pillars’ of sleep, nutrition, and exercise are important to me; if I deviate too much from my routine, I pay for it.

A few days ago, Laura published a post that we worked on together with Julie Keane from Participate entitled Open Recognition is for every type of workplace. It’s a bit of a ‘thinky’ read for the start of the year, but an important one which marks a slight pivot with our work around Keep Badges Weird.

I updated my blog post about building an iPod for 2023 with more photographs and some updated details. I’m so happy with it!

Since the start of the year I’ve posted the following on Thought Shrapnel:

I switched hosting platforms for Thought Shrapnel over the holiday period, and it seems to be working better and less susceptible to inadvertent ‘Fedi DDoS’ attacks.

Next week is our WAO meetup in the Netherlands which I’m very much looking forward to. I’ve had a chat with Aaron about walking the Pennine Way and we’ve decided to do the first five days of it in April. I’m pleased about that, as it will be a much more social experience, and a lot less demanding on my joints! While I look back with pride on walking Hadrian’s Wall in 72 hours last year, it was mentally and physically tough. Trying to do the hardest National Trail by myself in two weeks might have been a step too far at the moment.

Photo of one of the many pitches at which I st. (Artificial pitches have absolutely revolutionised access to sport in the North East of England since I was my children’s ages)