Open Thinkering


Weeknote 49/2023

One’s real life is so often the life that one does not lead.

(Oscar Wilde)
Photo of Doug in Irish pub wearing 'Mince Pie Appreciation Society' to-shirt. Original photo taken by Julie Keane

I’ve spent the majority of this week in Vienna for ePIC 2023. It’s the first time I’ve visited the city, although not my first visit to Austria, as Team Belshaw included Salzburg on an inter-railing trip around Europe five years ago.

Given I’ve got a layover with nothing much to do in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, I’m composing this post on Friday evening. I’ll add to it later.

Earlier today, as I was about to get on a train in Vienna, I received notification that a grade and feedback had been given for my first tutor-marked assessment. As regular readers of this blog will be aware, I’ve recently started the first module of an intended MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice.

I don’t mind sharing that I got 73% which is… fine. I didn’t do so well on the longer question 2, partly because I introduced too much narrative — a cardinal sin in a word limit-constrained environment. To be honest, although my academic pride is at stake, although I get a passing grade on each module (50%) I don’t actually care that much. It’s about the learning and application for me.

Travelling in post-pandemic (but not post-Covid) times is weird. At least three people at the conference tested positive while we were there, which is unsurprising given how people are coming together from all over the world. Thankfully, people know how to behave these days and so there was masking and self-isolation.

I just hope I haven’t got it, as that would be a not very fun end to the year. The only time I’ve had it was in January 2022 and, although I managed to work through it, I couldn’t run for about 10 weeks after it. In fact, it felt that it added about five years to my life. So I’ve been wearing a mask on the flights and on public transport. I also took a test this morning which was negative.

Unless we decide that we’re not going to meet up together any more, go on holiday, or spend time in enclosed spaces with other humans, I’m not sure what else we can do.

During the three days of ePIC, I was on stage three times. The first was just a very short heads-up to people that the ORE community has released v0.1 of the Open Recognition Toolkit. The second involved moderating a panel which featured Anne Hilliger, Kelly Page, and Noah Geisel. And then, I jumped on stage a third time to show the posts I wrote about using Open Recognition to map real-world skills and attributes.

It was a smaller gathering this year than in previous years. I think that’s for several reasons, including the location, time of the year, and clash with other events. Despite that, it seemed to have representatives from more countries and continents! There was certainly a fairly large contingent from the US and Canada.

The conference programme was fairly packed and focused mainly on presentations. This was quite tiring, especially in the afternoon, with the heating on and a room filled with warm bodies! I ducked out of a few sessions, in one case heading to the Christmas markets which were truly magical. And I say that as someone who is pretty cynical about such things.

There were many things at the conference I agreed with and applauded. There were some things I actively opposed. But that’s the point of bringing people together in person: it’s a chance to thrash things out a bit and to have the kind of dialogue that sometimes aren’t so conducive within online gatherings.

I’m now adding to this very early on Monday morning. I slept in my home office for a couple of nights while I made sure that I didn’t start exhibiting Covid symptoms. It seems that I’m fine. The weekend didn’t amount to much: a basketball game and a football match for my son (win and a loss); getting drenched while taking my daughter up to practice some football after most of her activities were called off this week; tidying and cleaning the house; playing the demo of Football Manager 2024.

Next week, I’m pleased to say, is my last working week of the year. The thing to keep reminding myself is not to start anything new. I’ve got a couple of short proposals to get to clients, a bit of work to do with Laura, and some things to finish off.

Other than that, I’m going to cruise into the end of the year and then take three weeks off. I’m very much looking forward to that, although I’m still going to have some MSc work to do!

Original version of photo of me wearing a festive t-shirt in an Irish pub in Vienna taken by Julie Keane. I upped the contrast and made it black and white.

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