Open Thinkering


Tag: review

2022 in review

Last year, I wrote a post linking to all of my weeknotes from the year along with a short synopsis. That’s a bit boring, so instead I’m going to choose a photo from each month that hasn’t previously appeared on this blog and talk about some of the things I did.

In total, I did 213 days of work and took 47 days of holiday this year; I observed some public holidays and not others, for various reasons. I’m not going to talk about work much in what follows. You can see all of my weeknote posts here.


Ice on the path in Northumberland National Park

I started and ended the year on walks with Aaron Hirtenstein in Northumberland National Park. As one does, I made a couple of lists of things I wanted to do more of in 2022 and things I wanted to do less of. While I’ve been pretty fastidious in avoiding things that sap my energy, I haven’t done such a great job at things that give me more.

My daughter came back from school with Covid and so, inevitably, I caught it (although my wife didn’t until later in the year, and my son still hasn’t had it). I didn’t feel great, but worked through it. WAO got into a good rhythm of co-working on projects, and I started working on the Zappa project with the Bonfire team.


Khai Khai restaurant

Hannah and I went away for a night in Newcastle, which included a wonderful meal and cocktails at Khai Khai. It was so good, I ended up taking the whole family for my birthday later in the year.

I kept telling people I had not ‘Long Covid’ but ‘Medium Covid’ as although I was OK, I couldn’t really do much exercise without my heart rate massively spiking. I did start doing more walking every day, however, in an attempt to build up my capacity for the Hadrian’s Wall walk in April.

Later in the month I started a course on ‘tech ethics’ which, although I didn’t finish due to travel, I thought was really thought-provoking. I also met some interesting people.


Centraal Station

I did my first proper work trip since the pandemic in March, a multi-city trip in The Netherlands as part of the Dutch National Libraries conference. I spent the weekend beforehand in Amsterdam with Hannah, and Laura Hilliger and her husband came over from Germany at the same time so we had dinner together. It was so good to see people IRL again!

Due to Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, I donate a lot of my remaining crypto directly to the Ukrainian government, and my kids ended up donating all of the charity money they set aside from their pocket money each month. On our home front, we bought a new bed, and I started taking Feverfew tablets which had a real effect on reducing the frequency and intensity of my migraines.


Hadrian's Wall

As planned, I took three weeks off work in April. Walking Hadrian’s Wall in 72 hours was a real achievement for me, after only really recovering from Covid in March. I had been supposed to walk it with Aaron, but he came down with it on the Sunday we were supposed to meet. So I just went for it. Took me a full week to recover!

Team Belshaw also went on holiday to Croatia, which was excellent — if a little intense between the Bora wind, watching Hadjuk Split vs Dinamo Zagreb, and experiencing an earthquake on our last night… On our return, I ran my first 10k of the year, and we got hospitality tickets for Newcastle United vs Liverpool at St James Park.


Stadium of Light, Sunderland

A busy month, which included my team (Sunderland) being promoted to the Championship after languishing in League 1 for too long. My dad and I went to the playoff semi-final. I also went down to London to present at the Learning Technologies conference, meeting up with Bryan Mathers and Oliver Quinlan while I was there, and ducking my head into the Outlandish offices. I attended the Thinking Digital conference, probably for the last time.

Back home, I completed a Sociocracy facilitators course with some friends, and tried semi-successfully, to replace my home broadband with a 5G connection. I got into a pretty good routine of three gym sessions, two runs, one swim, and one yoga session per week.


Fathers Day cards and whisky

A quieter month full of routines and including a celebration of Fathers’ Day. My son earned his first Open Badge, which felt like a bit of A Moment given my 11-year history with the project. I did a bit of solo parenting as Hannah was away for work, and my daughter tried out for new football teams.


Hotel wallpaper featuring flowers and CCTV cameras

Hannah and I went away to York to celebrate 20 years since we were engaged on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Team Belshaw travelled to Sheffield to watch England’s Lionesses thrash Sweden in the Women’s Euros semi-final.

Hannah completed a 26.2 mile Mighty Hike for charity, while I started running every day and ran my fastest 10k for a decade. I bought a new laptop, painted my office in the rain, and took the kids to football and basketball tournaments. A busier month than I was expecting!


Part of the Meow Wolf art installation in Denver, CO

I flew to Denver and then on to Boulder, Colorado right at the end of July for The Badge Summit which happened right at the start of August. I had a wonderful time, sharing an amazing Airbnb with Laura and Anne, as well as Mark, Julie, and Don from Participate. In addition to presenting at the event, I went hiking in the mountains, watched the Lionesses win the Euros, and experienced the Meow Wolf immersive art installation.

Hannah got Covid right before I went, so I unceremoniously shipped off the kids to my parents. She had it quite bad, and was incapacitated for a few days, spending time in bed. I think she was doubly concerned as a family member had Long Covid at that time.

After the excitement of the US, we had a week before going to a wedding and then heading off on holiday in France. I ran an accidental half-marathon and found my way back by speaking broken French to random people in the countryside.


Pigeon stuck in the grille of our car

September was a weird month. I ended up in hospital twice (once to do with my heart, once to do with my brain) due to overdoing it. A pigeon got absolutely rammed-stuck in our car’s grille. I set up as an escape from Strava. Our daughter got into Newcastle United’s Emerging Talent Centre. I bought a Steam Deck.


Weird early morning light over Morpeth bus station

I got back into running and had a couple of enjoyable runs in Lille where I was for the ePIC conference. I got the Eurostar there, which was a first. I got vaccinated (my fourth) and baked a cake for Hannah’s birthday.

After toying with the idea of getting an electric vehicle, we ended up realising we needed a second car instead and bought a little VW Up! Team Belshaw went on holiday in an Airbnb near Dundee, and our son played an exhibition basketball game before a pro fixture.


Fisherman's cottage

As I predicted years ago, everyone started showing up on the Fediverse after Twitter took a dive. I set up a non-Mastodon instance at (was Misskey, now a fork called Calckey). Team Belshaw went out for an excellent Sunday dinner, as we do most months now, up the Northumbrian Coast. We had a lovely walk on the beach afterwards.

Aaron and I led an Away Day for LocalGov Drupal down in London together with Nathan Brown. It was a great success, and as a result the project is now incorporated as a co-op. For the first time ever, the World Cup was a winter one and started in late November, which was awesome. Just don’t mention… well, everything other than men kicking a football around.


Looking down over Edale

I’d planned to take three weeks off in April, August, and December this year. It didn’t quite work out like that, but close enough. Our kids don’t return to school until 10th January, so I’m taking my three weeks off in a way that straddles the last two weeks of 2022 and the first week of 2023.

I used some AI tools for various things, including audio transcription. Like many people, I’ve been messing about with AI art tools, but ChatGPT was something quite unexpectedly different.

Laura and I appeared on the OEG Voices podcast. I was in full-on wind-down mode from December 1st and focused my attention on sampling many different types of mince pies. Of course my wife’s and my mother’s are the best!

I went walking in Northumberland National Park with Aaron, in the Peak District with Bryan, and up at Simonside with the family. I celebrated my 42nd birthday. I made a nut roast from scratch. I bought gifts for everyone else and then a Mac Studio for myself as it’s the end of my own company’s financial year.

Tonight, to see in the New Year, we’re heading up into the Northumbrian hills for Allendale Tar Bar’l. We used to go every year when I was a teenager, and Hannah and I have been before we had kids. It’ll be the first time our two have experienced it. I just hope it doesn’t rain too much. Snow is absolutely fine 🙂

Looking back, looking forward

I was surprised to see my name pop up in Stephen Downes’ latest post which summarises some of his hopes for the year to come. Given that he also references two other people for whom I have a lot of respect, I thought perhaps I could do something similar.

Looking back

Unlike Stephen, however, I am going to look back first. This has been an incredible year. We’ve rolled out vaccines, in the western world at least, in a way that might give us a way out of the pandemic. We’ve also started to address the climate crisis; it’s no longer a thing that people can deny. Now we just need to work on vaccine and climate justice.

On the work front, we’ve rebuilt the co-op this year with Laura and I being the engine room. Anne, Laura’s neice has come onboard as an intern and provided a burst of energy, and John quit his job so that he can spend more time with us. Given that this time last year I didn’t think WAO was going to exist for much longer (given the drama of late 2020) this is a huge achievement.

There more detail in my weeknote review of 2021, but one thing I will say is that I miss travelling. We’ve managed to go to a few places as a family, but it’s nothing like going to completely new places and experiencing different cultures. While I won’t be flying anywhere, I would like to get to visit somewhere other than Brexit Britain by train, boat, or car in 2022.

Team Belshaw have succeeded despite all of the odds this year. Hannah, my wife, switched careers in the middle of a pandemic and started a new job in the same week as her mother passed away. Both of our children are flourishing both academically and sportingly. Teenagers will be teenagers with our eldest, but I’d rather have battles over devices than over anything more serious…

Looking forward

‘Hope’ is a funny word. It’s the kind of thing you ascribe to things outside of your control, I guess. Given that I try and focus on things within my control, it’s not a word I use often.

So, instead of talking about hope, these are the things in my control this coming year which I intend to change:

  • Family — moving house is a priority this year, not only for the usual reasons (size, rooms, location) but leaving our current terraced house would mean we could get a dog and a charging point for an electric vehicle. We’ll miss our neighbours, though.
  • Work — I’m looking to inject more creativity and rest into my work in 2022. This last year I worked between 20 and 25 hours most weeks. This year, I’m looking to experiment with upping that to more like 30 hours, but taking April, August, and December off. I need to talk it through with others, but I feel like this will fit in with the rhythms of my kids’ major school holidays better and allow me to work in 12-week chunks.
  • Health and wellbeing — I want to help our family be as healthy as possible. We’re being cautious with Covid, but we also recognise that school is the major transmission vector for us. Personally, I’m reasonably fit at the moment but I’d like to shed at least half a stone in weight, and ideally a full stone. One way to do that is to start swimming again. I probably also need to start meditating, but not sure whether using an app for that is the best approach. I’ve heard that it can be pretty brutal once you get a couple of steps down the path…
  • Hobbies — I’m considering taking up piano lessons. It’s a long time (32 years!) since I did Grade 4 and, to be honest, I’m not looking to do anything other than play for fun. I’m also looking forward to spending even less time on social media and more time being creative with the various Korg synths I bought during lockdown. I’m also going to do more wild camping next year. It was really fun, especially the September series.
  • Personal development — I spent a week last year taking a course on climate leadership. I’d like to do another one, not necessarily on the same subject, this year. I enjoy learning things via platforms such as Futurelearn, but there something about the experience of being with other learners as part of a cohort that I find useful.

I can’t control when the pandemic will end or any of the political decisions that may help or hinder that. By the time we get to this time next year, however, I can live in a different house, be fitter, be doing interesting work and tinkering with cool side projects / hobbies, and learning new stuff.

The above doesn’t sound like too much of a stretch but, of course, we’re living during a pandemic when everything seems mentally and physically harder than it needs to do. It’s like a ‘Covid tax’ on doing anything other than sitting in a chair consuming content. But that is no way to live a life, and I for one intend to never stay still for too long.

5 things I’ve learned this (work) year

I downed tools on 2020 today, deciding to stop working for the last three weeks of the year so I can rest and recharge.

It’s been an incredible year in every sense of the word; there’s been the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I don’t particularly want to rake through the negatives, I thought it might be worth sharing five things I’ve learned.

1. Don’t expect things to be easy

The man who does not attempt easy tasks but wants what he attempts to be easy, is often baffled in his wishes


There’s no point in spending your life doing easy things. For me, these are things that have been done the same way before. Instead, I want to do the difficult thing and stuff that challenges me. The problem is when I’m tired I just want things to get easier for a bit. That’s not the way it works, unfortunately.

2. Money can’t buy me love

To be clever enough to get all that money, one must be stupid enough to want it

G.K. Chesterton

My biggest problems this year have been caused by interactions with those who have different approaches to money than me. I see numbers on a spreadsheet as a means to an end. To others, it’s seemingly a yardstick by which they measure their self-worth.

3. Keep something in reserve

There is no need to show your ability before everyone.

Baltasar Gracián

I think one of my biggest traps before starting therapy last year was the need to be seen as a ‘good’ person and talented at what I do. While I still prefer people to think well of me, I’m now very aware that I cannot control other people’s perceptions. Which is quite liberating.

4. Stand up for what I believe in

Respect is often paid in proportion as it is claimed.

Dr Johnson

I’ve often said to my kids that people can only treat you the way you allow them to. I’m pleased to say that this year I’ve stood up against racism, bullying, and gaslighting. Hopefully that’s earned me some respect, but it’s generated plenty of self-respect.

5. We’re all in this together

Whatever you may be sure of, be sure of this: that you are dreadfully like other people.

James Russell Lowell

It’s perhaps a funny thing for someone to write who’s approaching the midpoint of his life, but it’s only this year that I’ve really felt that I’m similar to other people. I’m not a special snowflake, other than in the sense that we all are.

I’d like to thank the good people at Outlandish for allowing me to work with then during the second half of this year. It’s been an eye-opening experience to work with a well-run tech cooperative that goes out of its way to be inclusive, transparent, and emotionally mature.

Right now, I’m not sure where 2021 will take me. I’ve got some work to dive into immediately in the new year, but beyond that I’ll follow my values and interests.

This post is Day 75 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at