Open Thinkering


Tag: PBworks

Weeknote 30/2020

I’ve written quite a bit this week as part of my #100DaysToOffload challenge:

Over and above what’s detailed in these posts, I’ve been splitting my time between working on projects for We Are Open and Outlandish this week. For the former, my ‘home’ co-op in the CoTech network, I’ve been mainly focusing on work for Catalyst and the Social Mobility Commission. We’re working with Erica Neve and Pedram Parasmand on three contracts, helping charities who are rapidly undergoing digital transformation. We had a really successful retrospective on Friday with UpRising, who we’ve been helping in more depth.

With Outlandish, I’m helping with some productisation of similar projects they’ve worked on for a range of clients. I find this really interesting as it’s simultaneously about meeting user needs and about organisational development. I’m also advising around ways in which they can develop the workshops they offer.

I’m fortunate to work with organisations which are so emotionally intelligent, and which go out of their way to be so. One of the reasons for working with Outlandish is to give them some short-term help with project management while they’re a bit stretched. But another reason is to learn from their processes and procedures; although they’ve only been a co-op for as long as us (four years), they’ve been together and honing things for a decade.

When I was at Jisc, one thing that always impressed me was their internal knowledgebase. They used PBworks for that, while Outlandish uses a WordPress installation with a theme called KnowAll. I’ve been wanting to experiment with wiki.js and so this week Laura Hilliger and I set up an instance at and copied over existing pages from our GitHub wiki. I’ve set user permissions so that only logged-in members can edit the wiki, and indeed see any pages that are ‘internal’ only.

We finally got sign-off from Greenpeace for one of the best things I think I’ve written for a while: HOWTO: Create an Architecture of Participation for your Open Source project. As Stephen Downes mentioned when mentioning it in OLDaily it’s perhaps applicable to wider contexts than just open source projects.

Other than that, I’ve just been reviewing a document Laura put together for some work we’re doing with Red Hat, doing a small amount of work for our ongoing work with Greenpeace, and contributing to a ‘playback’ of some recent work we did for Catalyst.

Next week, I’m tying up work for We Are Open on Monday, and for Outlandish on Tuesday, before turning everything off and going on a family holiday for 10 days. As my therapist said in our meeting on Friday, as I’m a bit of a perfectionist, there’s no guarantee that I will actually relax during my holiday just because I’m away from home. So I’m actively trying to cut myself some slack. I deliberately went for a slow run this morning and I even had an afternoon nap yesterday. Small steps.

Header image is a selfie I took on a family walk in the Northumbrian hills last Sunday. Inspired by Low-tech magazine’s solar powered website, I loosely followed this guide to create the ‘stippled’ effect. This reduced the size of an 8.6MB image to a mere 36.6KB.

3 online tools I’m using to increase my work-related productivity

I’ve got 3 different systems of productivity, all of which overlap:

Two of these are pretty much unchanged since I moved from working in schools to working for JISC infoNet but, as with any new job, I’ve had to iterate a new system of work-related productivity. I’m planning to write a lot more in depth about the ins-and-outs of iterating such a system, but needed to share three tools that I’ve recently found particularly helpful. I didn’t use any of these in my previous roles. 🙂

1. PBworks

At JISC infoNet we use PBworks for internal documentation and projects. I’ve tried Huddle, Basecamp and other specifically project management-focused webapps, but have come back to PBworks time after time in the last few weeks. It’s user interface is clean and simple, it’s wiki-based, and it sends email updates of changes.

I’ve been used to using Wikispaces before – mainly because it’s free for educators. PBworks, as far as I understand it, is free for one workspace. We’ve bought the Premium license to create unlimited workspaces which I’d definitely recommend if you or your institution is in a position to do so!

2. NoteSync

As with many things, NoteSync was brought to my attention by Lifehacker. It’s a very simple Adobe Air-powered (and therefore cross-platform) app that allows you to take notes. The clever thing is that it then will sync those notes with your Google Docs account.

NoteSync is very lightweight and it’s really easy and quick to search for previous notes. At the moment it’s in beta and therefore free. According to the website it will be $4.99 when it leaves the beta stage. Bargain! 🙂

3. Netvibes

I can remember using Netvibes back in the day (4-5 years ago) but, not usually being a big fan of start pages quickly abandoned it. Where it really comes into its own, however, is for gaining an overview of the projects in which you’re involved.

Above is my Netvibes dashboard. As you can see, the Web Page Plus widget is effectively a way to embed an iFrame in order to bring in websites and webapps from elsewhere online. As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of the simple interface sported by TeuxDeux, so have brought that in front-and-centre.

The other tabs I’ve decided to set up in a similar way. They feature a ‘To-Do’ list for that particular project, a notes section where I record details of who’s involved in the project and what role they have, as well as the Web Page Plus widget to bring in relevant pages from PBworks, SurveyMonkey and the like.


It’s still early days (I haven’t completed a month for JISC infoNet yet!) but I think it’s important to iterate systems of productivity quickly and keep tweaking. Effectively, I’m in a state of ‘perpetual beta’ when it comes to the tools I use to be productive.

At a recent conference I heard someone use the terms ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’ to explain how they understand the lifecycle of applications used by their institution. It’s similar with systems of productivity. I’ll ‘sunrise’ certain applications by testing them alongside existing solutions, whilst simultaneously ‘sunsetting’ others. This allows me to migrate data and continually search for the best tool for the job.

What have YOU come across recently that’s helped make you more productive? 😀