Open Thinkering


Tag: USA

Weeknote 30/2023

Collage of photos from Boulder, Colorado

I’ve spent most of this week in Boulder, Colorado at The Badge Summit. It was great. Not only was the event full of interesting people and sessions, but we had a couple of (well-behaved) house parties at our Airbnb. I shared the house with Julie, Kerri, and Laura.

This was my fourth time in Colorado, and I love how sporty the place is compared to other places I’ve been in the US. It took me a while for my body to acclimatise to the timezone, heat (mid-thirties degrees C), and elevation (over a mile above sea level); so long, in fact, that by the time that my watch was telling me I was no longer ‘stressed’ it was time to go home! I did manage to sneak in a quick hike and a couple of short runs, though.

I was involved in four sessions at the summit, all related to Open Recognition:

  • Pre-event unconference where we helped people unused to the format to get into three groups to discuss things of interest to them.
  • Badgesplaining session (slides) with Laura right before the keynote. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen: a 10 minute talk right before a longer presentation.
  • Conversation with Sheryl Grant about the history and theoretical underpinnings of Open Badges.
  • Post-event unconference where Laura and I helped Justin and Krystal figure out how to set up a 501(c) nonprofit to help further the Open Recognition in the US.

Despite my best preparations and precautions, I always find coming back to the UK hard when flying forward through timezones. I went to the gym this morning (Saturday) and was weak.

Today, I’ve been packing as we leave for Center Parcs in The Netherlands tomorrow. We’re then in Devon the following week, and then my son and I are walking the second half of The Pennine Way. I did the first part from north to south, but my wife and daughter are dropping us off so we’ll be doing the second part from south to north. I’m thankful that my sister can look after our rucksacks as she doesn’t live too far away from Edale.

My daughter’s toe is slowly improving, although it still looks pretty bad. We’re hopefully picking up some crutches tomorrow so she can move about, but she’ll be unable to do a lot of the holiday activities we had planned. My son successfully completed his lifeguard training after doing a course from Monday to Friday. So that’s two trained lifeguards in the family — although I never was actually employed as one after doing a course at uni 22 years ago!

I’m not planning to take my laptop away with me, so the chances are that I’ll do a compilation weeknote on my return from walking with my son. I’ll take plenty of photos!

Three internets?

Back in October 2018 The New York Times published an editorial on the ‘balkanisation’ of the internet.

There’s a world of difference between the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, known commonly as G.D.P.R., and China’s technologically enforced censorship regime, often dubbed “the Great Firewall.” But all three spheres — Europe, America and China — are generating sets of rules, regulations and norms that are beginning to rub up against one another. What’s more, the actual physical location of data has increasingly become separated by region, with data confined to data centers inside the borders of countries with data localization laws.

The New York Times

Interestingly, what we’re seeing now with the mooted banning/acquisition of TikTok shows that social networks are now important for state-level actors from a surveillance point of view.

Telegram, the chat app, is run by two brothers. One of them, Pavel Durov, is an intelligent and informed commentator on these events. Yesterday, he stated the following:

[T]he US move against TikTok is setting a dangerous precedent that may eventually kill the internet as a truly global network (or what is left of it). Before the US-TikTok saga, only autocratic countries like Iran, China or Russia were known for bullying tech companies into selling parts of their businesses to investors with close ties to their governments. It’s not surprising, for example, that Uber had to sell both their Russian and Chinese branches to local players.

Pavel Durov

What we’re witnessing is the slow eclipse of the USA by China as the dominant world power. Under the radar, China invests huge amounts of money in infrastructure projects in Africa and other developing areas. But it’s not a democratic nation, meaning that western companies face state interference in their attempts to penetrate the Chinese market.

It looks like the USA is trying to play China at their own game. I can’t see them being successful.

Authoritarian leaders all over the world are already using the TikTok case as justification in their attempts to carve out a piece of the global internet for themselves. Soon, every big country is likely to use “national security” as a pretext to fracture international tech companies. And ironically, it’s the US companies like Facebook or Google that are likely to lose the most from the fallout.

Pavel Durov

I couldn’t care about the fortunes of huge Silicon Valley companies. What I am interested in, though, is the future of the open web. Sadly, I just can’t see how, now that pretty much everyone is online, the current political situation will allow for unfettered global competition. Data, after all, is the new oil.

Back to The New York Times editorial, and their best (pre-pandemic) outlook from 2018 didn’t exactly look rosy:

Yet even the best possible version of the disaggregated web has serious — though still uncertain — implications for a global future: What sorts of ideas and speech will become bounded by borders? What will an increasingly disconnected world do to the spread of innovation and to scientific progress? What will consumer protections around privacy and security look like as the internets diverge? And would the partitioning of the internet precipitate a slowing, or even a reversal, of globalization?

The New York Times

Imagine that. We may have already lived through the golden age of the internet.

This post is Day 24 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Weeknote 30/2013

This week I’ve been:

I’ve also been planning, talking, drinking, dancing, playing, and sharing. I’m just getting over my jetlag as the only route that worked was NCL-AMS-DTW-PWM! Next week I’m putting the next phases of my work in Mozilla into motion before heading off for a long weekend to visit relatives and Legoland.