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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 wiki.weareopen.coop 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.

Perfectionism

In my latest CBT session today I once again confronted the spectre of perfectionism that haunts my life and work.

It’s a difficult thing to discuss because most people would frame this as having ‘high standards’ of oneself. Perfectionism is different, though, and my therapist helpfully differentiated it for me by describing it as ‘not looking after yourself’.

There are so many facets to this in my life. Yes, I do regular exercise, but I’m competitive when doing so. I remember seeing a video once where the actor Will Smith said that if you got on a treadmill next to him at the gym he would die rather than getting off first. That’s me.

Even during lockdown when there’s no-one to compete against, I’ll compete against myself. It’s a losing battle as I approach 40, I literally can’t run as fast as I used to.

I compare myself against other people and against younger versions of myself all the time. I try and act in ways to control people’s impressions and opinions of me. To use the terms I use with my therapist, I ‘put on a mask’.

Admitting this to myself is actually more difficult than admitting it to others. So just to be clear, I am explicitly telling myself that it’s OK to be me, that I’m allowed to slow down and take a break, and that there’s no point in being in competition with anyone, let alone myself.


This post is Day 14 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com

Rules to live by

I have a number of things printed out and blu-tacked to the back of my home office door. The most recent addition has been a four-point list entitled ‘Rules to live by’.

  1. Avoidance is rarely the correct option
  2. Transparency is the best policy
  3. Perfect is the enemy of done
  4. Listen to what people actually say

This list came out of the CBT sessions I’ve been attending since last September. A combination of things made me realise I needed some help:

  • Death of a good friend
  • Stressful situation at work
  • Burden of volunteer responsibilities

As I’m sure most people say after going through therapy, it’s something I should have done years ago. Not because I’m weird, broken, or had anything other than a happy childhood. Just because as I approach middle-age, it’s good to be able to jettison some mental baggage and ways of thinking that aren’t helpful.

The list seems simple, but follows some fairly deep excavations into the reasons why I act the way I do, and the causes of anxiety flare-ups. The four points are my response to a prompt by my therapist to think first of all of the implicit rules I’m teaching my kids, and then writing down explicitly the rules I’d want them to live by instead.

My 10th therapy session is on Friday afternoon. After that, we’ll be moving to maintenance sessions every few months. I’m spending my own money on this, because the NHS had too much of a backlog. I realise I’m in a privileged position to be able to spend money on my mental health, but it’s definitely been money very well spent. The sessions have made a tangible (and hopefully long-lasting) effect on my life.

If you’re reading this and dealing with some stuff, I’d highly recommend a course of CBT. That’s especially true if you already think you should have the tools / strength to deal with it by yourself. Therapy has made me a better person.


This post is Day 12 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com

Weeknote 17/2020

After a crappy week last week, I’ve actually really enjoyed this one. Sunshine, family, meaningful work, and tangible progress have all combined to vastly improve my mood and outlook on life.

Another thing which has been a huge boon was the delivery of the exercise bike we ordered over a month ago. It’s installed in my home office, and I’ve been over there pedalling away while playing GRID via Google Stadia. Incredible.


On the advice of friends and family, I brought forward my follow-up therapy session to Friday. It proved to be a great idea as it showed how much progress I’d made. The evidence? I managed to dig myself out of a hole I’d created for myself within the space of a few days, instead of weeks.

We went through some other things, including avoidance, balance, and the ‘masks’ we all wear. I’m going be checking in again next month, having found that the value I got from a remote session was the same as in-person.


It hasn’t rained here for ages. Since the pandemic started, in fact, unless I’m remembering things incorrectly. As a result, when we did some family gardening on Saturday morning, it felt like we spent half our time watering the existing and new plants in our garden!

I never thought I’d say this, but there’s nothing like gardening in the sunshine with other people. Light physical activity coupled with instant results makes me happy.

After that, we toasted some marshmallows in the fire pit and sandwiched them between two chocolate digestive biscuits to create a British version of smores.


On the work front, I’ve been busy with the co-op helping a London-based charity with their pivot to fully-online provision. We’ve also been creating an email-based course for ‘the new normal’, with the first output (available soon!) being The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Virtual Meetings.

With MoodleNet, I want to explore framing what we’re offering as a ‘distributed digital commons’ as I think a ‘federated resource-centric social network for educators’ is not only wordy but difficult to grok.

Ivan asked me to help him add more educator-focused examples to the styleguide-as-code he’s been working on. This can be accessed via design.moodle.net, which is currently a redirect and work in progress, but had me using git for the first time in a couple of years!

We’re in the midst of reconfiguring the team as MoodleNet is moving beyond the ‘innovation’ phase into production. That means that a couple of existing members of the team are taking the opportunity to focus on other projects. The aim is to start federation testing in a couple of weeks’ time, if all goes to plan.


I’ve been spending a lot more time on Twitter recently. Not only is the platform doing an increasingly good job around verified news accounts, but there’s just so much interesting and fun stuff that people are sharing on there at the moment. You still won’t get me using Facebook’s products, but it’s hard to argue with network effects.

Writing-wise, I quoted Seneca extensively in an article for Thought Shrapnel entitled Thus each man ever flees himself. I also posted my usual link roundup, and tweaked the theme for the weekly newsletter.


The biggest things I miss most from pre-pandemic life are, I would say: travelling; watching my kids do their various sporting activities; and seeing my parents in person. Apart from that, life is very much the same as it was.

Next week, therefore, I’ll be working from home my usual mixture of working for Moodle, We Are Open co-op, and trying not to put on too much weight…


Otherworldly header image created by using detergent to clean a roasting pan earlier this week.

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