Open Thinkering


Weeknote 23/2023

AI-generated photo of Doug Belshaw

The ‘photo’ above was generated using a new tool from Secta Labs. Yes, I paid money to feed in 25 real photos and get back 300+ images that it generated. Some looked like my weird American cousin, as in they kind of looked like me, but not really. There were 15 I was happy enough with, so I asked friends and family which ones they liked and then… ended up using a different one! 😂

To be honest, I’m not sure why I’m using scare quotes for ‘photo’ given that most people use their smartphones to take photographs these days, and those have ton of AI processing going on. As far as I’m concerned, the image above represents how I think I look better than any photos that have been taken of me recently.

(Pro tip: you can use DALL-E to generate more of the area around your head if you get something that’s too closely-cropped on one side, as I did.)

Anyway, enough of the narcissism! Back to the introspection.

This week has been in which a lot of things have happened. Some of them have been work-related, so let’s get those out of the way first. I’ve been:

  • Continuing to configure Co-op Conversations which now almost ready. I just need to tweak some workflows.
  • Recording an episode for Season 7 of The Tao of WAO podcast. I’m not sure if we’re releasing details of upcoming guests, so I’ll not share who we had on, for now. We did release S06 E02 (complete with transcript!) about worker wellbeing, so you might want to listen to that.
  • Holding WAO‘s Annual General Meeting which lasted about five minutes, and is literally just a tick-box exercise given that we have three people with voting rights and we talk most days anyway.
  • Catching up with Ian O’Byrne about an upcoming Call for Proposals around an academic journal. I usually ignore these things, but I thought it was a great opportunity to do something different (multimedia!) and collaborate with him.
  • Working through some user research session design issues with Ivan Minutillo. The aim is to figure out how to present the ‘Compose’ modal in Bonfire in the most intuitive way possible when users have extremely granular controls at their disposal.
  • Working on client-related stuff, including for Greenpeace, Participate, and WEAll. We’ll be looking for new clients (or to do more work for previous ones!) from September.
  • Chatting with Tim Frenneaux about an idea he’s got called DeCAP. He connected with me after seeing our Architecture of Participation work, and what he’s doing sounds pretty cool.
  • Wrestling with Vrbo, through which we booked our accommodation for our upcoming trip to Amsterdam. If I were in charge of product for them, I would expect to be called into the office for a stern word.
  • Drafting another blog post follow-up to Practical utopias and rewilding work, which I’ll probably publish next week.

Laura remembered on Thursday lunchtime that she’s not working next week and had booked it off in our calendar towards the beginning of the year. She doesn’t work Fridays, so it was a slightly abrupt “see you in Amsterdam!” 😅

I mentioned last week that my daughter is going to seemingly a million football trials in the month of June. We found out this week that she got into what is the best team in the north east of England for her age group, which she’s delighted about. She also went to an England development pathway event and got a callback, and to a mixed team trial.

About the latter: anyone who’s been a teacher or coach can often tell what’s about to happen next in certain situations. The decision is only whether or not to intervene. And so it was on a unseasonably cool evening that my wife and I, both former teachers, watched someone in charge of 30+ twelve year-olds. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that, despite them offering our daughter a place in their best team, she won’t be going back. I don’t have a lot of time for poor organisational skills.

My son is continuing with his GCSE exams, and will enter his final week of them next week. I think he’s doing alright, but I am a bit concerned about his on again – off again relationship with revision. You can lead 16 year-olds to the waters of study, but you can’t make them drink (as it were).

Just to add more things into the mix, we’re doing a second viewing of a house next week and taking the kids along. Our house isn’t on the market yet, as we said we’d wait until the GCSE exams to be finished.

We’re also thinking of leasing a car to replace our 10 year-old Volvo V60, which has served us really well and I really like. The rear passenger side suspension snapped this week and, although we got it fixed quickly, it just reminded us that we’re in the realms of Serious Things Going Wrong. I took our daughter for a test drive of a Volvo XC40 today, but I’m leaning towards the lovely-looking Cupra Formentor.

Exercise-wise, I’m back to running properly after my ankle injury. I also went swimming for the first time in ages with my son, as he’s doing a lifeguard course next month and needs to get his water fitness back. Both of us used to swim competitively, but that doesn’t mean much as you lose anaerobic stamina super-quickly. Anyway, it was fine, we’ve both got new prescription goggles, and the pool at the new leisure centre is great.

I took my daughter to the gym, ran on the treadmill, did weights, my first 10k outside for a while, and generally started pushing myself a bit more. Weirdly, the thing I found hardest this week was a 20-minute Pilates for Runners routine I did via YouTube. Oh. My. Days.

Next week, as I mentioned, Laura’s away and so I’ve got to prepare for our meetup and MozFest House session in Amsterdam. I’ve also got a list of small things I need to do, writing I need to start / get finished, and things to tidy up. My daughter’s got more trials, my son’s got his last week of exams, so I need to find something that’s acceptable to everyone as a way of celebrating the latter being over.

Busy times, but not overwhelming. I get bored easily, so it’s it’s all good, I guess 🤘

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