Open Thinkering


Category: Uncategorized

Weeknote 09/2022

It’s March! Finally, I feel like a functional human being after five months (Oct-Feb) where, each year, I’ve learned to Just Get Through It. The sun is streaming through the window as I write this, the birds are waking me up each morning, and spring has sprung.

There’s lots going on in the world at the moment, not least a continuing war in Ukraine, a related refugee crisis, and the impact of climate change being felt everywhere. I’m learning the value of Stoicism and putting it into practice by trying to separate the things I’m thinking about into those things I control, those things I influence, and those I neither control nor influence.

Red background with title 'Thing over which you have NO control or influence'.

Large yellow oval with title 'Things over which you have SOME influence'

Small green circle within yellow oval with title 'What you control'

With many big scary things, they’re in the red zone. So all I can do, realistically, is donate money, raise awareness, and try not to add to the world’s problems.

The above image is for an activity we’ll be adding to the Learn with WAO site which launched this week. It’s a place for links to our email courses, resources, and the podcast I record with Laura. Our intern, Anne, has done a great job with it over the last few months, and it comes out of work we did with a bunch of charities during the pandemic. I’m pleased we’ve got somewhere to point people towards for free, high quality, easy-to-use resources. We use them ourselves, of course, with clients!

This week’s been a relatively busy one and, to ensure I don’t bury the lede, I want to make sure that I share the first version of a report I created sharing findings from the initial user research we’ve done for the Zappa project. It’s been really interesting work and I’ve loved doing it. Thankfully, I’ve got some more stuff to do with the team over the coming weeks. Our findings were not quite what I expected when it comes to misinformation in federated networks.

In other work, we’ve paused work with one of our clients which I’m very pleased about. They’re doing a lot of work on many different fronts and we were asking them to spend a lot of time, money, and effort on something they’ve never done before. Hopefully, this pause will allow them to regroup and be able to give the time needed to the digital transformation and new product stuff we’ve been helping them prepare for.

That won’t necessarily be anytime soon, so it does mean that we’ll potentially have some availability for when I come back from taking most of April off. Our Greenpeace projects are continuing, as is our work on the Keep Badges Weird project with Participate. I’m really pleased that I can now point to, a domain that WAO has had registered for years, and now has a use for!

I started the Tethix pilot programme on tech ethics this week, which was great. It’s really well put together and the timezone differences mean that I do it at a time when I’m usually not doing anything very productive (20:00-23:00 every Tuesday). I’ve got to meet some new people, and we’re thinking about some important issues. It runs on each of the five Tuesdays in March.

I’ve been doing a lot of logistics work this week, it seems. I’ve been booking flights for my trip to the Netherlands the week after next, campsites for the Hadrian’s Wall walk I’m doing with Aaron next month, and trains for the Learning Technologies conference in May. After going nowhere for two years, I’m going to be travelling a lot in the space of just a few weeks — especially as Team Belshaw is also going on holiday to Croatia in the Easter holidays.

This weekend I went for a long walk, did some stretching exercises via Giggs Fitness, and ran a 5k on the treadmill at the gym. I need to up my game a bit for walking every day for a week along Hadrian’s Wall! My baseline is pretty good, though, so I should be alright.

Right now, I need to go and get ready because, like a civilised middle class English family we’ve got reservations for Sunday dinner at the new restaurant that’s opened down the road from us. I just hope we’ll be back to watch the second half of the Manchester derby…

Top photo taken yesterday while cutting my hair. I learned to do this pretty effectively during lockdown, and saw no reason to stop. When my family isn’t around, it does mean I need to take a photo of the back of my head, though!

So this is Covid


How ironic, to get a positive PCR test result on the same day that the government announces the end of many Covid-related restrictions. Welcome to my life.

So this is Covid
And what have you done?
Another isolation over
And a new one just begun

A very merry Covid
And a happy lateral flow
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any T’s

And so this is Covid
I hope you have fun
Infecting the near and the dear ones
The old and the young

Thankfully, because I’ve had my vaccinations, my symptoms are so mild that I can work through it and haven’t choked to death. My lateral flow test was negative this morning, so I have no doubt I’ll be able to end self-isolation early (midnight Sunday).

A cynic might note that the early end to restrictions in England seems designed to appease hardline Tories in an attempt to prop-up Boris Johnson’s premiership. Especially when yesterday saw the highest Covid-related death toll since last February.

At least my son will be happy he doesn’t have to wear a mask in class any more. Let’s just hope he doesn’t join his sister in isolation given that it’s his birthday in the next few days…

Act NOW to prevent the hijacking of the Open Badges standard by an IMS faction!

TL;DR: add your comments to this GitHub comments thread to express your opposition to the Open Badges standard being merged with with ‘Comprehensive Learner Record’ (CLR). An overview of the better path forward can be found in this overview slide deck.

In March 2019, two years after Mozilla handed the stewardship of Open Badges to IMS Global Learning Consortium, I called for a ‘community renaissance’ free of IMS involvement.

I did not think then, nor do I think now, that IMS are a fit and proper steward for the Open Badges standard. Developing standards behind closed doors is antithetical that everything that Mozilla stood for when I was on the original Open Badges team. It leads to power grabs by small groups with interests unaligned to the wider community, and that’s exactly what’s happening now.

Over the past few years, Kerri Lemoie, Nate Otto, and others have attempted to steer a true course for the Open Badges standard towards the wider W3C Verifiable Credentials standard. (The W3C is the organisation responsible for developing standards for the web.) They have done this openly and transparently.

Behind closed doors, a faction of IMS members, perhaps wishing to hitch their bandwagon to the community-driven success, are trying to claim that the CLR is somehow the apotheosis of Open Badges. As anyone familiar with the last decade of the standard’s development will be aware, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Merging Open Badges with the CLR only serves IMS member interests: they would get to remove Mozilla’s trademark, shut down open repositories, and continue to ignore community involvement in the ongoing success of the standard.

As far as I’m aware, there is a meeting at IMS to move this to a member vote THIS WEEK — which does not give those with an interest and a stake in the ecosystem much time to respond. Update: Colin Smythe says “No deadline has been set. I would expect several more weeks of discussion and reflection. For the time being feedback should be to this GitHub repo.”

So please do consider going here and adding a comment. (If you can’t do that, please consider giving a ‘thumbs-up’ to comments with which you agree!)

To be clear, the proposal to merge with the CLR is an existential threat to the Open Badges standard. While v2.0 of the standard would continue to exist as a pre-IMS standard, there would be no future standalone version of the Open Badges specification.

I could make this post much longer, explaining how Open Badges are a great fit for Verifiable Credentials, railing about the US-centricity of the CLR, and complaining about the practices of IMS. But instead, I will end with an entreaty to add your comments to the GitHub thread.

Let’s focus on Open Badges as Verifiable Credentials and keep the momentum going. Let’s ignore the distraction of those wishing to limit the size, scope, and success of Open Badges to only those areas that they know well. Open Badges is so much bigger than one person, one organisation, or one sector.

Image by Patrick Loonstra. Cross-posted to Medium.