As this post goes live I’ll be relaxing with my family in Gozo, a tiny island in the Mediterranean. It’s a wonderful place to recover from the madness of MozFest – as well as being an apt start to a hiatus from personal email, blogging and social networking that I’ve come to term ‘Black Ops’.
I did announce this a couple of weeks ago so I hope it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
In previous years my Black Ops period has been the month of December. This year, for various reasons, I’ve decided to be ‘away’ for both November and December. Two whole months. 16.7% of the year. 61 get-ups.
While I’m making no promises for what I’ll get up to during this period of being more intentionally analogue, I’m intending it to involve a lot of writing and reflecting. I’ll also be spending more time with my family and maybe even moving house. You can see what I got up to last year here.
So in order to manage expectations, until 2014 I won’t be:
looking at or responding to personal emails
active on social networks
publishing new blog posts
sending out newsletters
If you need me for work-related things during Black Ops I’m contactable via my Mozilla email address (which is easy enough to find/guess). And if you need my phone number, you’ve already got it.
I hope you have a wonderful rest of the year. Thank you very much for reading this blog in 2013!
I was interviewed about this for the BBC Radio 5 Live ‘Outriders’ podcast, available here [MP3]. Skip to 10:20 if you want to hear me discuss the ideas in this post further!
I’m composing this sitting cross-legged with my back to the wall in a hotel room in Porto. There’s an occasional gentle breeze that drifts through the open window that slightly chills the back of my neck. I expected Portugal to be warmer for some reason.
The cacophony of seagulls behind outside fades into the background as the sound of church bells fills the air. An earlier glance out of the window showed people getting ready for the day. They take for granted the magnificent, tall buildings with tiled facades; it’s no wonder the centre of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m going to spend the entire month of December being a lot more analogue. I’m really looking forward to spending that time increasing my mindfulness. I’ll still be performing my normal work functions for Mozilla, but will tend towards paper to get things done. Meanwhile, I’ll not be using technology for personal communications.
I’m not looking at or responding to personal emails
I won’t be active on social networks like Twitter or Google+
No new blog posts or weekly newsletters in December
I intend to spend time with my family and read books that have been recommended to me. This digital hiatus is something I’ve done for the past couple of years and would highly recommend to anyone. At a time when I’m feeling slightly weary and cynical about the world it’s a period of rejuvenation that allows me to start the New Year with a bang.
For the past couple of years I’ve undertaken Belshaw Black Ops. It’s the name Paul Lewis gave to my personal digital hiatus lasting for the month of December. I live in such a fast-paced online world for the other eleven months of the year that I need some time to take it all in!
You can read about what I got up to last year here.
This post is a heads-up to say that during December I won’t be:
I’d hoped not to be travelling either, but my job at the Mozilla Foundation evangelising Open Badges necessitates me going to a few places. Unless you’re also in those locations, the only way of getting hold of me is via my work email. Ask me for it ASAP if you need it!
Just to confirm that I’ll still be around on Twitter and Google+ for the next couple of weeks as well as blogging and writing my newsletter. But after then, leave me alone for a bit, OK?
Watched more films in one month than I did in the preceding eleven
Re-assessed my direction in life
Started using a SAD light (early birthday present)
Chilled out a whole lot more than I usually do (Migraine count: 1)
What I really missed social network-wise wasn’t the constant stream of news but the positive reinforcement and support I get. This was shown by the number of messages of congraultations I received both in the comments of my last blog post and on Twitter.
Of course, the question I now get asked is: Now you’ve finished your doctorate, what’s next?
Well, I answer, I’ve got some exciting stuff coming up – I’m running a workshop with Prof. Keri Facer at Learning Without Frontiers at the end of January, and then March is a busy month, with me heading to San Francisco for the DML Conference, speaking at TEDx Warwick, and keynoting a conference for the first time (see my Lanyrd profile for details).
Other than that and a couple of other bits and pieces, I’m open to offers. I’ve been asked to submit a book proposal and things are ticking along nicely with Synechism Ltd. (on a part-time basis). Whilst I’m very much enjoying things at the moment, my focus is on doing interesting stuff that aligns with my values (openness, freedom, authenticity) and that allows me to spend as much time as I can with my family.
I’m pleased to announce that I successfully defended my doctoral thesis at my viva voce on 12th December 2011. As expected, the examiners gave me minor rewrites but I managed to submit these to my supervisor before Christmas.
Whilst I can’t officially call myself ‘Doctor Belshaw’ until I’m on Durham University’s pass list (and even then I’m probably not your go-to person for emergency tracheotomies) I’m delighted with the culmination of six years’ work into digital and new literacies.
It’s great to be back on social networks such as Twitter and Google+ and press ‘delete’ on hundreds of emails (well, I did warn people…)
As I’ve already mentioned, in a couple of weeks’ time I’m going to be disconnecting from networks for a calendar month. I’ll still be at work, but won’t be tweeting or replying to personal email at all.
Many thanks to those people who have been in touch asking if that means for them as well. The answer? Yep, absolutely.
So if you’ve got something you need me to do or respond to, please let me know sooner rather than later! Come December 1st you’ll have to either phone me or stop by my house.
This year I’m planning to do the same for the month of December. It’s slightly difficult given my role at JISC infoNet, but here’s what I’ll be doing (and not doing):
Spending time with family.
Not responding to email. If you email my personal email address you’ll get an auto-response. Other than work-related emails on my JISC accounts, the only other way to contact me is my mobile number. Ask for it if you need it.
Avoiding social networks. Yes, even Twitter. And Google+, Facebook. The lot.
Not blogging. Or moderating comments.
Collating and curating. Change doesn’t come through one person having a good idea. Change comes through ideas being packaged in such a way that they become memes and alter the status quo. I’ll be going back through what I’ve written and created over the past year and thinking through how it connects with other stuff.
Playing Battlefield 3. What an epic game!
Migrating web hosts. I’m sick to death of Bluehost. They used to be great, but now they’re slow and unreliable.
Depending on when I have to defend my thesis, I may also need to spend time making clarifications and changes to that. All in all, if you need to contact me, ask my advice, or invite me to speak somewhere, you’ve got four weeks before 2012 to do so… 🙂
For the past three weeks I’ve been on Black Ops, a better term than ‘digital hiatus’ to describe my being digitally incommunicado. It’s felt like longer, to be honest. I managed to stay off Twitter completely – the occasional, accidental, and hastily-deleted autopost from Amplify notwithstanding.
Email was a different story: although I had a ‘Black Ops’ autoresponder on my Gmail account, I had to use email for some of the following activities.
Here’s a list of what I’ve been up to:
Collated and published Best of Belshaw 2010 (freely downloadable or available for purchase in physical form at cost price)
Waited patiently for Hannah to give birth to our second child. She was due on the 28th December 2010, but still no sign. It’s the reason I’m not at the Learning Without Frontiers Conference today/tomorrow.
Bought a fair bit of new technological kit and sold older stuff on eBay.
Took my son, Ben, to the beach (to burn off excess sugar) almost every day.
Experimented with Quora and Licorizer, re-joined Facebook, and unfollowed 90% of people I was following on Twitter.
Lost all my iPhone contacts on Boxing Day whilst unjailbreaking my iPhone so I could upgrade to iOS 4.2.1 (text me your phone number if I had it before!)
Kicked off a stealth project with Andy Stewart which will culminate in a manifesto and small events this year, building (hopefully!) to a large event in 2015.
Wrote my first-ever journal article (it’s entitled Seven Types of Ambiguity and Digital Literacy)
Engaged in some consultancy which I may develop a bit more in 2011. I’ve come up with a Hierarchy of Understanding which I’m going to work on (and may even turn into a journal article) before sharing.
Played a whole lot on my Playstation 3, especially Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (the Vietnam expansion pack came out on my 30th birthday!)
More on the above over the next week or so. I may be sporadic given I’m both getting back into my digital routine and having to deal with the imminent arrival of a new baby. :-p