Open Thinkering


Category: Uncategorized

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.

Weeknote 25/2021

Map with pencil

It seems unbelievable to me that, here we are, almost at the midpoint of 2021. As ever, it’s easy to look back with different lenses over the past six months, depending on whether we’re thinking about physical, intellectual, or emotional energy being expended. I’ve simultaneously been nowhere and everywhere, it seems.

This week has been a particularly quiet one in terms of the number of hours of paid work I’ve done. Fewer than 20, in fact. Some Catalyst Continuation support, podcast recording, fixing things, doing some usability testing for OpenLearn, and meeting with people. Hannah’s contract hasn’t started yet, due to bureaucracy around the way that the NHS procure services, so it feels a little bit like we’re in limbo.

I could do with getting my teeth into a decent-sized bit of work, to be honest. I enjoy consultancy, but project tend to last a few months at most, whereas I want to be thinking about actions taken now and the effects they will take a year from now. The grass is always greener, I suppose.

This week, I wrote two posts here:

I posted daily to, updated after someone suggested a new link, and published the following on Thought Shrapnel:

I’m planning to go away for a night’s wild camping on Sunday night, as the weather looks like it should clear. One thing I really do miss about pre-pandemic life is getting away from the place that I both live and work for a few days at a time. You need critical distance from the places and people you love to be able to appreciate them properly.

It would be remiss for me not to mention that my family spoiled me last weekend with gifts and attention on Father’s Day. I jokingly pointed out that it fell near my ‘half-birthday’ — and low and behold, a couple of hours later I was presented with half a chocolate cake…

Image of route planning using an OS map.

Lying in bed with Marcus Aurelius and Mahatma Gandhi, thinking about work

When our kids reach their eighteenth birthday and start their foray into adulthood, I’m going to give them some books which have helped me in my adult life, and which I think will help them.

One of those books is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, a relatively slim book which contains the wisdom of someone who was not only a Roman Emperor, but a Stoic philosopher.

I’ve written both here and elsewhere about how much value I get from reading Meditations on repeat along with other books like Baltasar Gracián’s The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence and Montaigne’s Essays. There are certain books that have layers of depth and meaning that it’s only possible to get to via repeated readings.

The thing I particularly like about the Meditations is that it was originally intended as a journal, as a series of exhortations by Marcus Aurelius to encourage himself to be a better person. As such, it doesn’t have a hypothetical audience, it has an audience of one. We’re merely literary voyeurs benefitting from his insights.

There are 12 books in the Meditations, and some sections are more heavily highlighted in my dead-tree version than others. There’s one bit, though, that’s always kind of baffled me.

At day’s first light have in readiness, against disinclination to leave your bed, the thought that “I am rising for the work of man”. Must I grumble at setting out to do what I was born for, and for the sake of which I have been brought into the world? Is this the purpose of my creation, to lie here under the blankets and keep myself warm? “Ah, but it is a great deal more pleasant!” Was it for pleasure, then, that you were born, and not for work, not for effort? Look at the plants, the sparrows, ants, spiders, bees, all busy with their own tasks, each doing his part towards a coherent world order; and will you refuse man’s share of the work, instead of being prompt to carry out Nature’s bidding? “Yes, but one must have some repose as well.” Granted; but repose has its limits set by nature, in the same way as food and drink have; and you overstep these limits, you go beyond the point of sufficient; while on the other hand, when action is in question, you so sorry of what you could well achieve.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 5

Perhaps it’s because we live easier lives in 2020 than they did a couple of millennia ago, but this passage doesn’t really speak to me. But I feel like it should.

Others point to it as motivation and inspiration to avoid the lie-in and get on with the day. Reader, I have never had that problem, apart from when I’ve been mentally or physically ill.

To me, motivation for work springs not from religion, or fear, or desire for glory, but, as Gandhi famously suggested, from a striving for the kind of happiness that can be achieved when “what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”.

That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. How about you?

This post is Day 52 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at