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Weeknote 42/2020

This was a four-day working week due to my taking Wednesday off to celebrate my wife’s birthday. It was a ‘significant’ one, and I’ll be turning 40 in December too. Oops. Sorry Hannah.

We had a great day. I’d been a lot more organised than usual in my gift fiving and, given we’ve been together more than half our lives, I focused on the things that I know she likes. That includes walking on the beach in the sunshine, and ordering small plates from a gastropub.

It was lovely to spend the day together and a great reminder that before Moodle I used to work four days as a consultant, taking Wednesdays off. I need to get back to that.

One of the places we ended up wandering around was Barter Books, one of my favourite places, particularly because I always come away with an unexpected find. This time around, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places jumped out at me, and I’ve loved randomly dipping into its contents.


Talking of work, this was Week 3 of a four week Catalyst-funded discovery programme with nine charities. It’s gone really well, mainly because we’ve got a lovely cohort, and I took my ‘benevolent dictator’ role seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disciplined with a project!

Other work this week has included the kick off for a top-secret Greenpeace project that is going to both be exciting and challenging. We ran a pre-mortem as part of a mini thinkathon with some senior Greenpeace staff, and although we’ve totally got the talent and experience to deliver, by the end I was a bit 🤯

The third block of work I’ve done this week has been with Outlandish. My work with them has been squeezed a little this month due to my other commitments, but I’m looking forward to spending half of my time working with them on productisation and Building OUT from the start of November.

A couple of Outlandish blog posts this week mentioned me. The first was a quick update about what I’ve been doing with them over the past three months. The other was a really interesting post from Abi documenting a couple of hours in the life of Outlandish where a lot of consent-based decisions were made. It’s definitely worth a read, especially if you’re in an organisation that struggles to make decisions.


My therapy session again focused a lot on the internal drama within our co-op. One particular thing came out of the session was that I, like many people, look to other people for reassurance. As my therapist skilfully helped me to realise, this is doomed to failure for a couple of reasons:

  1. We don’t necessarily receive the kind or amount of reassurance we require from others.
  2. Even if we did receive the right kind and amount of reassurance from others, it’s only a temporary fix.

As such, we must look within ourselves for reassurance. For me, this is reminiscent of a Stoic idea that I’ve always found challenging: we should be so indifferent to the world that our happiness is independent of our current circumstances.


While I didn’t write anything here this week, on Thought Shrapnel I published:


Next week, I’ll be finishing off Catalyst stuff, diving more into the Greenpeace project, and spending time on Outlandish work. We’ve got a couple of nights booked just over the border into Scotland for the weekend after next, so we’re hoping the North East doesn’t go into Tier 3 lockdown…


Image of Dustanburgh Castle from the beach at Low Newton, Northumberland.

Weeknote 41/2020

Traffic cones in a large puddle

This week has been much like last week — busy, somewhat fraught, and involving lots of thinking about the future. It’s been typical autumn weather, with bright sunshine one moment and a torrential downpour the next!


I applied for a role at the Wikimedia Foundation entitled Director of Product, Anti-Disinformation after a few people I know and respect said that they thought I’d be a good fit:

The Wikimedia Foundation is looking for a Director of Product Management to design and implement our anti-disinformation program.  This unique position will have a global impact on preventing Disinformation through Wikipedia and our other Wikimedia projects.  You will gain a deep understanding of the ways in which our communities have fought disinformation for the last two decades and how this content is used globally.  You will work cross-functionality with Legal, Security, Research and other teams at the Foundation and imagine and design solutions that enable our communities to achieve our Vision: a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

As a result, I ended up writing about my issues with Twitter’s attempts at anti-disinformation in the run-up to the US Presidential election.

On Friday evening, a recruiter for a different global product director role got in touch seemingly slightly baffled that I’d applied for it, given my career history and credentials. I suppose it’s easy to undervalue yourself when various people chip away at your self worth over a period of months during a pandemic.


I’m very much enjoying working with Outlandish at the moment. It’s particularly nice to work alongside people who not only work openly and co-operatively, but are genuinely interested in improving communication, trust, and empathy within their organisation.

During October, due to my commitment to a four week Catalyst-funded discovery programme with nine charities, I’m only working with Outlandish the equivalent of one day per week. However, from November to January, I’ll be spending half of my week (2.5 days) divided between two things:

  1. Helping them productise existing projects, and training/supporting new ‘product managers’ (although that role will look slightly different initially)
  2. Working on helping them expand their ‘Building OUT’ programme which stands for Openness, Understanding, and Trust.

One of Outlandish’s values is that they are ‘doers’, meaning that the space between verbally proposing something, gaining the consent of colleagues, and getting on with it is really short. It’s so refreshing, and meant that on Friday I was able to publish the MVP of a playbook using existing Building OUT-related resources.


On Thought Shrapnel this week I published:

Here, I published:


Other than the above, I’ve been making final preparations for a milestone birthday for my wife, Hannah, next week. I’ll reach the same age as her in a couple of months’ time, so at the start of 2020 we’d begun to draw up plans to celebrate both birthdays. Those plans went out of the window due to COVID-19, so I’m trying to make the day as nice as possible, with an eye on a belated celebration later.


Image of traffic cones in large puddle at Morpeth, UK.

Weeknote #23

This week I have been mostly…

Becoming a toyboy

Once a year, for a period of nine weeks, my wife appears to be a chronological year older than me. It was her 30th birthday on Thursday, for which I bought her 29 presents and took her to Jesmond Dene House Hotel for afternoon tea. I took yesterday off work as well and, in fact, with some organisation around mLearn 2010, am managing not to return to the office until Tuesday 25th!

Restructuring my thesis

Whilst my original target of submitting my Ed.D. thesis on 1st January 2011 (the earliest date I’m allowed) now looks less likely, I have written more than half of it now. High time, therefore, to be firming up a title and a structure. More on that over the weekend.

Fixing my Mac

I’ve had all manner of problems with my MacBook Pro recently. It’s a work machine and IT services at Northumbria University couldn’t sort it. Taking it to the Apple Store they recommended a reinstall over the top of the existing operating system. Seems to have done the trick (fingers crossed!)

Getting angry

I very rarely get shouty-shouty, stampy-stampy angry any more. I’m far too civilised and philosophical for that. On the other hand, if something was going to tip me over the edge it would be the Browne Review of Higher Education. For those under a rock in the UK or international readers, some of the recommendations:

  • Removal of cap on fees
  • Students since 1998 should pay ‘real’ interest fees on their student loans
  • Public money to be targeted at STEM, Business and MFL

Further details here.

I could write several essays on this, but I’ll have to be satisficed by observing that, overall, the recommendations would make it less likely that my offspring attend university, whilst my subjects (Philosophy, History, Education) would be marginalised. Oh, and that £16,000 loan I took out to pay for my tuition? That which the Student Loans Company reckon I’ve still got over £15,000 left after 8 years of repayments? That would be increased. I think they call that changing the contract after signing. Bar. Stewards. 🙁

Twenty-nine.

Birthday cake

CC-BY-SA Jessica N. Diamond

There is still no cure for the common birthday. (John Glenn)

Usually, when my birthday comes around I’m either ill, disillusioned or frustrated. Well I’m not that ill today, but I’m not too far away from the other two…

If I lived on Mars I’d be celebrating my 15th birthday soon. If I was on Mercury, I’d be almost 117 years old (thanks, Your Age On Other Worlds!)

A move this year to a job which gave me 50% extra pay, propelled me into the Senior Leadership Team of a 10-site Academy for 2,800 students aged 3-18 kind of pales into insignificance compared to what others achieved during the time they were 28:

  • Niels Bohr published his revolutionary theory of the atom.
  • George Sand published her first novel, Indiana.
  • Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof invented the artificial language ‘Esperanto’.
  • Thomas Wakley began publishing the journal The Lancet.
  • Bob Marley recorded I Shot the Sheriff

Despite not quite measuring up to these luminaries, I’m not feeling as much of an underachiever as I have in previous years. This is partly due to my promotion, but also due to reading an excellent book entitled Ideas: a History from Fire to Freud. What comes through loud and clear is that the genuises whom we immortalise were pretty much the first among equals. People’s fortunes very much depend upon serendipity. That’s not to say it always involves hard work – that’s a given! :-p

I’m not going to list the things I’ve achieved this year – it’s not helpful, for example, to link to a page showing that this is one of the Top 10 Education blogs in the UK… 😉

Instead, I’m going to set myself some targets. Targets for my 29th year were:

  1. Apply for and obtain a job that means my wife, Hannah, doesn’t have to work. (Hannah’s now doing a few days of supply teaching each month)
  2. Write half my Ed.D. thesis around the concept of digital literacies. (my ongoing thesis is online at http://dougbelshaw.com/thesis – I’ve written around 17,000 words)
  3. Start a new project – either through Folens or independently that brings together some of the ideas Nick Dennis and I have been discussing. (I can’t divulge too much, but Nick and I are in negotiations with a major educational publisher…)

Targets I’m setting for my 30th year are:

  1. To finish my Ed.D. thesis, ready for submission on 1st January 2011.
  2. To start learning to play the guitar (my parents bought me one for my 21st birthday!)
  3. To go running at least 3 times per week.

So yes, I’ll be 30 at the end of 2010. No biggie. 😀

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