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Category: 100DaysToOffload

100 days of #100DaysToOffload

It took me 307 days to complete the #100DaysToOffload challenge, mainly because I didn’t include my weeknotes and (until recently) I also published posts at Thought Shrapnel. I wrote about all kinds of things, from privacy to project management, and from Stoicism to new side projects.

During the time period covered by this challenge, I’ve quit a job, dealt with internal strife in our co-op, turned 40, moved Mastodon instance and Linux distribution, spent some time learning about how to be antiracist and about non-violent communication, worked a lot with charities on digital projects and transformation, and come out of and gone back into, lockdown. It’s been pretty intense, when I think about it! Thankfully I managed to stay in pretty good mental shape due to having started CBT pre-pandemic.

Here is a full list of the posts I wrote during that time period:

  1. #100DaysToOffload: Day 1 – Introduction
  2. Practice what you preach
  3. Managing projects is about understanding context
  4. How I use analogue notebooks
  5. A tour of my #realworldhomeoffice
  6. Sounds from a #realworldhomeoffice
  7. Time for a more sustainable blog theme
  8. Sort-of breaking up with Cloudflare
  9. The perfect non-technical book on decentralisation?
  10. Just write.
  11. Rules to live by
  12. Liquid society?
  13. Perfectionism
  14. Moving on
  15. HOWTO: Create radically smaller images for your minimalist blog
  16. Living a good life is not a theoretical exercise
  17. Musonius Rufus on meat
  18. Opinions and preferences
  19. One year.
  20. Things could be worse
  21. Lies and misinformation
  22. Identity, obedience, and social media
  23. Three internets?
  24. We’re the real losers of realtime behavioural advertising auctions
  25. Herd immunity for privacy
  26. Keeping it simple
  27. Experimenting with the MAF method
  28. Giving consent
  29. Moving Mastodon instance
  30. Climate ch-ch-ch-changes
  31. Strengths and schooling
  32. The auto-suggested life is not worth living
  33. Remaining unmanaged
  34. Kettled by Big Tech?
  35. Temporarily embarrassed influencers
  36. Letting go of my pre-pandemic self
  37. 3 advantages of consent-based decision making
  38. Changing desktop environment in Pop!_OS
  39. Deleting my Patreon account
  40. What’s the purpose of Philosophy?
  41. What do we mean by ‘the economy’?
  42. An incredible example of societal collapse
  43. We’re not even citizens, just independent contractors
  44. Rejecting the ideas hamster
  45. New habits die easily
  46. Working out loud is noisy
  47. NVC and FONT
  48. Running with the wolves
  49. Learning through frustration
  50. The state of professional social networking: a personal history
  51. Lying in bed with Marcus Aurelius and Mahatma Gandhi, thinking about work
  52. How to plan a workshop in 10 steps
  53. Marcus Aurelius on character
  54. Baltasar Gracián on patience
  55. 10 ways to Build Back Better
  56. Introspection, truth, and error
  57. Our better natures
  58. How to build ideological products that delight users
  59. The Ice Cream Fork of Productisation
  60. What I do when I don’t know what to do
  61. Spatial video conferencing with self-organised breakout rooms
  62. What’s your favourite month?
  63. (A)synchronous project updates within organisations
  64. Convenience, UX, and ethics
  65. Define your audience or your product will (probably) fail
  66. Give and you shall receive
  67. The self-cannibalisation of ideas and experience
  68. Are you OK?
  69. Skin in the game?
  70. Who are you without the doing?
  71. The cash value of truth
  72. No more performative professionalism
  73. Current optimization is long-term anachronism
  74. 5 things I’ve learned this (work) year
  75. My favourite posts of 2020
  76. Free Software and two forms of liberty
  77. 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years.
  78. What day is it? What date?
  79. Christmas slobbing about
  80. My two biggest insights from last year
  81. Everything flows
  82. The end of competition
  83. Power and paths
  84. The (monetary) value of a university education during a pandemic
  85. Solving for complexity
  86. Investing in decentralised crypto file storage
  87. Trust no-one: why ‘proof of work’ is killing the planet as well as us
  88. Introducing eink.link, my new side project
  89. Refactoring eink.link
  90. HOWTO: Install Firefox on Chrome OS
  91. Everyone has an eschatology
  92. The role of the man who foresees is a sad one
  93. Proof-of-What?
  94. New side project: extinction.fyi
  95. Refactoring extinction.fyi
  96. Inputs and outputs
  97. How to subscribe to extinction.fyi
  98. Another new side project: privacy.garden
  99. Iterating privacy.garden
  100. Unsettling

Oddly enough, I made two mistakes in numbering — one towards the beginning of the challenge (skipping a number) and once towards the end (repeating a number). Happily, these cancel each other out. I’m not going through the ones inbetween to rectify the numbering as, in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. There’s 100 posts there, no matter which way you look at it!


This post is Day 101 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com. Image by Sharon McCutcheon.

Unsettling

Dithered image of glass of water on edge of table

Some mornings, I get up and read Stoic philosophy and a book of aphorisms. It used to be all mornings, and then most, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

However, it is another of Emerson’s quotations that I want to focus on in this post, one that’s been rolling around my brain for the last week or so:

People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Settled’ is an interesting word, with many meanings. You can, after all, settle an argument, settle a bill, settle down and raise a family, settle into an armchair, and settle your affairs. To my mind, each definition has an air of being responsible, grown up, ‘conservative’ (with a small ‘c’).

In my own life I’ve definitely felt the pull to be settled. I suppose I am settled, in many regards: we’ve lived in the same house for seven years now — longer than I’ve lived anywhere, other than the house in which I grew up.

For me, there is a balance to be had between being settled in one area of my life and being unsettled in others. Being unsettled is where the sparkley-eyed creative drive comes from, the thing that I can only describe as a ‘wonder factory’. Without that turbulence in my life, I become hollowed-out, an empty husk of a man counting down my days.

To what extent, though, is it up to me to unsettle other people? If I recognise in myself that a need to balance areas in which I’m settled and those in which I’m unsettled, how do I know when it’s appropriate to go about prodding others?

Perhaps, and I suppose this is my get-out-of-jail-free card, by writing about unsettling things, people can opt-in if and when they’re ready. Interestingly, two of my three recent side projects (extinction.fyi and privacy.garden) have been on the unsettling side of things.

Finally, it’s worth noting to myself that being settled in my home life allows me to do unsettling things at work. This is a note to future Doug that when I’m unsettled with things outside of work, it’s time to do more ‘settled’ things in work.


This post is Day 100 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com.

Iterating privacy.garden

A few days ago, I kicked off a new side project called privacy.garden. It’s an aggregator focused on privacy news from around the web.

The aesthetic wasn’t quite what I was after so, although this isn’t it’s final form, as you can see below I’ve made some changes.

Screenshot of privacy.garden

I used an image entitled Vintage Wall Gate from Pixabay for the header image, and changed the title fonts to serif. I’m not a big fan these days of Google Fonts, etc. given that everything looks fine just using whatever default serif and sans-serif fonts users have installed.

I didn’t want a really bright orange RSS icon, so I chose this one. Then, to ensure the colour balance with the background green, I used the coolors.co website. After sharing on the Fediverse, Kev Quirk suggested some formatting tweaks, so thanks to him for those.

It’s nice to have a site that I visit myself as it auto-updates with news from around the web. If you’ve got suggestions for RSS feeds or iterating the design further, please let me know!


This post is Day 99 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com.

Another new side project: privacy.garden

privacy.garden screenshot

I’m not sure what it is with me and side projects at the moment, but I started another one today called privacy.garden. I’m a big fan of news aggregator websites, and thought it was about time there was one related to online privacy that I would visit regularly.

Unlike extinction.fyi, for which I manually update an XML file hosted via GitHub Pages, privacy.garden is an installation of WordPress hosted via a DigitalOcean droplet. I’m using the extraordinarily simple (and free!) WP RSS Aggregator plugin to import feeds from various privacy-related blogs.

The rather comically-bad combined emoji logo was created in about 30 seconds using this guide. I’ll replace it, hopefully with a custom-designed one from someone who knows what they’re doing. I may also tinker with the layout.

There is, of course, an RSS feed for the feeds that the aggregator pulls in which you can access at: https://privacy.garden/rss-feed

If you’ve got suggestions of blogs and other news sites to aggregate, please let me know!


This post is Day 98 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com.

How to subscribe to extinction.fyi

extinction.fyi logo

This is just a quick update to say that I’ve been working behind the scenes to make my side project, extinction.fyi, easy to subscribe to for updates.

There are now several ways to keep up-to-date with my ongoing documentation of the climate emergency:

  • Email digest
  • Telegram channel
  • Twitter account
  • Mastodon account
  • RSS feed

These options very much reflect the services I use, so no Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp options, for example. However, there’s nothing stopping someone using the RSS feed and creating their own bots for their favourite service! If you do this, please let me know so I can update the site.

Subscribe to extinction.fyi


This post is Day 97 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com.

Inputs and outputs

Abstract image of purple and blue lights

When I signed up for the #100DaysToOffload challenge in June last year, I honestly thought I’d be done by Christmas. A few posts per week? Easy.

If I’d included weeknotes, which I compose every weekend, I’d perhaps have finished on time. But, for some reason, I decided not to — thinking, perhaps, that it was somehow ‘cheating’ to do so. Whatever the reason, I’ve realised that I haven’t been writing as much as usual during the pandemic.

In general, I find the quantity of my outputs are determined by the quantity and variety of my inputs. The more my information diet and everyday activities revolve around the same things, the less I’m likely to compose something new. I miss travelling in that respect. Not only does it open the mind, but meeting new people and having serendipitous conversations explains the arc of my career in a way that my LinkedIn profile does not.

As a member of the tight-knit Team Belshaw, travelling also gives me the kind of freedom from familial obligations that allows my mind to roam a little. I met my wife at university aged 18, so I’ve never truly lived the bachelor lifestyle. Conferences, events, client meetings, and mountain training enable me to travel both physically and mentally to other places in a way not afforded by other means of escape.

In particular, there’s something about travelling on planes, looking out the window, that gives one perspective on life. Given the environmental impact, I can’t see myself wanting to travel via that method in the future unless I can avoid it, so I think I’ll have to make do with the view from the top of mountains. The added benefit, of course, is that walking to the top of them not only provides exercise, but gives one time to think.

So, on reflection, it’s no wonder the quantity of my outputs have diminished in proportion to the variety of my inputs during a global pandemic. I’m very much looking forward to a bit of travel as the lockdown in the UK eases. Hopefully, that will have a knock-on effect on both the quality and quantity of my writing here, and elsewhere.


This post is Day 96 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com. Image by Anton Maksimov juvnsky. 

Refactoring extinction.fyi

Last weekend, I launched a new side project called extinction.fyi to share news about the climate emergency. The site looked like the screenshot below, because I wanted it to provoke a response in people.

Old version of extinction.link complete with skulls and strapline "Documenting the end times"

Several things then happened. Some people on the Fediverse, quite rightly, asked for an RSS feed. As I was just hand-coding a simple HTML file using GitHub pages served from a repository, I tried using a service that tried to parse the HTML into a feed. It was sub-optimal, to say the least.

In addition, and as I mentioned in the original post announcing this side project, my wife was not a fan of the skulls and the strapline ‘Documenting the end times’. She mentioned this on several occasions, so I thought it was probably worth doing something about it for the sake of marital harmony.

To cut a long story short, I’ve refactored the site in several ways to create a site that now looks like the image below. The page itself is a styled RSS feed meaning it no longer relies on a third-party service.

New version of extinction.link with new logo (earth on fire) and strapline "Documenting the climate emergency"

This took a much longer time to achieve than I anticipated, mainly because I had no clue what I was doing, had to look up everything, and experiment/fail along the way.

For those interested, here was my thought processes and the tools I used:

  1. I remembered that Firefox used to style RSS pages nicely, so I searched for how to do something similar. This post gave tantalising clues, but this one was more useful.
  2. I’ve never created a page in XML before and styled it using XSL, so that was a huge learning curve. In addition, XML is really fussy when it comes to structuring data and using special characters. So that was fun.
  3. I decided which fields to use in my XML by following the W3C guidelines and seeing what authors of the two blog posts referenced above did. There was a lot of trial-and-error, where the W3C feed validation service was invaluable.
  4. I’d been just using the GitHub web interface because it’s easier when switching between devices. However, this became annoying when moving and editing many files and folders, so I started using Atom again, which integrates nicely with GitHub workflows (push/pull, etc.)
  5. The logo is actually courtesy of my daughter, who showed me that on WhatsApp (which I don’t use) you can merge emojis. So I asked my wife to send me the combined emoji for fire and earth, which is displayed as a WebP file, to reduce the filesize.
  6. In terms of the strapline, I wanted to keep it brief, so I had a bit of a think and a play around with words and came up with “Documenting the climate emergency”.

The only other thing to mention is that I used opengraph.xyz to add previews for various social networks. That works well for the about and faq pages, but I haven’t got it to play nicely with the XML on the index page.

Copy/pasting the existing news from HTML to XML RSS format was tedious, so I’m glad I only had 30 items to convert!

If you’d like to suggest any changes to the site, please check out the code repository and send issues or pull request. You can visit the site itself at extinction.fyi and also subscribe via RSS by simply adding that URL to your feed reader.


This post is Day 95 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com

New side project: extinction.fyi

extinction.fyi - documenting the end times

After the modest success of eink.link, I’ve decided to embark on another side project. This one also has a cool domain in the form of extinction.fyi and is a place where I can write about all of the death, destruction, and havoc I see being visited upon the planet we call home.

As my wife pointed out, it’s not the cheeriest thing to be doing, but here’s the About page I composed this morning to give a flavour of why I decided to create the site:

This website is a project of Doug Belshaw. I’ve been concerned about the impact we’ve been having on the Earth for a while, and have been paying attention to the work of people like Vinay Gupta and the Dark Mountain community.

The tipping point, though, was reading Jem Bendell’s paper Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy. It put things in such stark terms that it prompted me to start trying to think more deeply about the end of our species.

I tend to make sense of the world through writing and documenting, so I thought I’d set up this simple site as a way to help me prioritise my own time and effort. It may also be useful as a place to point others who may find this kind of resource useful or provocative.

Not everyone is motivated into action by reading about death, destruction, the ineptitude of our politicians, and the corruption of big business. So, if you would rather read positive news on this topic, I recommend the excellent Future Crunch.

You can get in touch at: contact@nullextinction.fyi

There’s an auto-generated RSS feed for the site which you can subscribe to. Let me know your thoughts in the comments! (unless they’re the same as my wife’s, in which case I get it) 😉

🔗 extinction.fyi


This post is Day 94 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com. Image via BBC News.

Proof-of-What?

Behind most things lies nuance. Blockchain is no different. The recent controversy behind NFTs (?) has polarised debate about the ‘value’ of decentralised currencies, tokens, and the applications they allow.

There’s some important technical differences between how the decentralised networks behind various cryptocurrencies and tokens come to consensus. The point of this post is to explain these to the best of my current ability and knowledge. It’s based on my attempts to ensure that I’m not trying to save the world on the one hand while destroying it through my actions elsewhere.

In the course of buying and selling crypto, I’ve learned about an important difference between currencies such as Bitcoin which use ‘Proof-of-Work’ (PoW) consensus models, and others which use ‘Proof-of-Stake’ (PoS).

Both of these models are called ‘consensus mechanisms‘, and they are a current requirement to confirm transactions that take place on a blockchain, without the need for a third party.

BitDegree

The TL;DR, as far as my understanding goes is that, broadly speaking, PoW is energy intensive and killing the planet, whereas PoS is… less problematic.

Let’s be clear: cryptocurrencies and tokens aren’t going away. And I see plenty of upside in terms of trading value independently of governments. The following definitions are taken from the glossary part of CoinMarketCap’s very helpful guide to crypto called Alexandria.


Proof-of-Work (PoW)

A blockchain consensus mechanism involving solving of computationally intensive puzzles to validate transactions and create new blocks.

Example: Bitcoin, Ethereum*, Zcash

*moving to PoS at some point in the future

Proof-of-Stake (PoS)

A blockchain consensus mechanism involving choosing the creator of the next block via various combinations of random selection and wealth or age of staked coins or tokens.

Example: Cardano, Flow, Polkadot


Other approaches

  • Proof-of-Authority (PoA) — “A blockchain consensus mechanism that delivers comparatively fast transactions using identity as a stake.”
  • Proof-of-Burn (PoB) — “A blockchain consensus mechanism aiming to bootstrap one blockchain to another with increased energy efficiency, by verifying that a cost was incurred in “burning” a coin by sending it to an unspendable address.”
  • Proof-of-Developer (PoD) — “Any verification that provides evidence of a real, living software developer who created a cryptocurrency, in order to prevent an anonymous developer from making away with any raised funds without delivering a working model.”
  • Proof-of-Replication (PoRep) — “Proof-of-replication (PoRep) is the way that a storage miner proves to the network that they are storing an entirely unique copy of a piece of data.”
  • Proof-of-Spacetime (PoSt) — “In simplest terms, PoSt means that someone can now guarantee that they are spending a certain amount of space for storage.”

The legality of cryptocurrencies varies by territory, with India currently considering a ban. I predict that the difference in consensus models will be a determining factor, with a likelihood that Proof-of-Work models are banned in some jurisdictions because of their energy usage and associated impact on the environment.

Chart showing energy usage of Bitcoin compared to data centres and countries

Ultimately, for better or worse, once it’s got enough traction you can’t ban innovation from happening. Governments are going to want to issue their own stablecoin, meaning that they can’t completely ban cryptocurrencies and tokens.

That’s why I predict that Proof-of-Stake will be seen as a viable model without completely destoying the environment. I may, of course, be wrong on all counts. Caveat emptor ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


This post is Day 93 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com. Image via BBC News.

The role of the man who foresees is a sad one

Fire clouds

The role of the man who foresees is a sad one. He afflicts his friends with warnings of the misfortunes they court with imprudence. He is not believed; and when the misfortunes occur, those same friend resent him for the ills he predicted.

Nicolas Chamfort

Chamfort was writing around the time of the French Revolution. This was a period where everything went (dangerously, murderously) sideways for a bit, before the status quo re-emerged with different rulers.

We tend to think that life is somehow ‘safer’ or more ‘stable’ these days, but the ideological collapse that caused the French Revolution is perhaps more evident in 2021 than it was in 1789.

Things break down when groups within societies fundamentally differ about ontology, epistemology, or ethics. The result is a form of militant tribalism, where each tribe believes that another is stopping them saying or doing particular things. The ‘others’ pose some kind of threat to ‘our’ way of life.

In reality, the biggest threat to societies, wherever you are in the world, is climate change — or as I’ve begun to call it for the sake of emphasis, ‘human extinction’. After all, the planet was fine before us, and will be fine after us. The Arctic was a jungle 55 millions years ago. Needless to say, that meant global temperatures would not have been conducive to human life.

Carbon emissions may have decreased dramatically due to the pandemic lockdowns we’ve experienced over the last year, but recent reports suggest that we would need a similar lockdown every two years to stop runaway climate catastrophe.

It’s not the cheeriest news, but then we need a complete mindshift in order to save our species. Anyone who’s read Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed will be aware that globalisation makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation. Our supply chains are more fragile than we think.

I have often asked myself, “What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?” Like modern loggers, did he shout “Jobs, not trees!”? Or: “Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we’ll find a substitute for wood”? Or: “We don’t have proof that there aren’t palms somewhere else on Easter, we need more research, your proposed ban on logging is premature and driven by fear-mongering”? Similar questions arise for every society that has inadvertently damaged its environment.”

Jared Diamond, Collapse

So what are we to do in the face of all this? One thing I’d encourage you to do is to read the Deep Adaptation paper from 2018 by Prof. Jem Bendell. The books by Dark Mountain are also worth paying attention to, particularly Walking on Lava: Selected Works for Uncivilised Times.

Ultimately, we all need to do something. We can’t shrug and say “hakuna matata” until everything burns down around us.

[I]t’s perfectly normal for people to want to live a good life right here and now, no matter what the future holds. It’s certainly stupid to work like crazy towards a future that doesn’t exist. That’s definitely insane. But working towards a present that can exist is but such a bad idea at all.

Dmitry Oblov, ‘A Present That Can Exist’ (in Walking on Lava)

I know that, personally, I’ve ignored all of this for too long. Yes, I got involved in the climate change protests a couple of years ago, but other than stopping eating meat I haven’t made meaningful changes in my everyday life.

I’m not exactly sure what my next steps will be, but I’m going to see whether Extinction Rebellion‘s approach of non-violent direct action might be the right path forward for me. I’ve got to do something.


This post is Day 92 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com. Image via Pixabay.

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