Open Thinkering

Menu

Tag: Weeknotes

Weeknote 13/2021

Rothley Castle, Northumberland

This week has been a short one, work-wise, with me taking the equivalent of two days off (Monday PM, Wednesday AM, all day Friday).

The main focal points of the week were a playback session for the Catalyst-funded sector challenge project I’ve been leading over the last 11 weeks, and a workshop for NEAR, an open source platform accelerating the development of decentralized applications. For the latter, it will be the first time our co-op will be paid partly in crypto, so we’ve been sorting that out.


Unlike the majority of England, this was the first week of Easter holidays for our two children. They’ve played a lot of Minecraft this week during the times my wife I have been working. There are worse games; at least it’s both collaborative and creative.

This week has seen the easing of lockdown measures at a time when the weather improved dramatically. This meant that we could invite my parents into our garden for the first time in a long time. There are many things I used to take for granted that now seem quite precious.


I’m continuing to work on my side project, extinction.fyi. This week, I created @extinctionfyi, re-purposing an old conference-focused account I haven’t used for seven years. I also wrestled with Mailchimp to create an automatic RSS-to-email Saturday digest which you can subscribe to here. The website itself will show the latest 10 items, but the RSS feed and email digest contains everything.

My personal website also has a projects page where I’ve listed Thought Shrapnel, eink.link, and extinction.fyi.


Allied to the above, I’ve been thinking about resilient tech this week. This is on the road to what some might call appropriate technology. I haven’t over-theorised this, but I’ve been doing things like:

  • Buying old MP3 players to hold downloaded music (instead of streaming)
  • Resurrecting spare phones and updating them with LineageOS
  • Getting used to using my ThinkPad x220 with a 20-hour battery dock

I had a quick chat with my neighbour yesterday, who was the only other person I know from where I live who both went to the climate strike a couple of years ago and to the Northumberland County Council meeting on the climate emergency. He told me that he’s quite optimistic about the future because of the groundswell of younger people taking up the challenge that climate change poses.

I’m looking forward to getting to his state of optimism at some point. Right now, I’m continuing to wallow in despair at the scale of the challenge that humanity faces. I can’t see a way out other than a process of deep adaptation that might further exacerbate existing divisions in our already-fragmented societies. I hope I’m wrong.


This weekend is Easter, so I’ve got four days off in a row to scoff chocolate and feel slightly guilty about not doing more DIY. I’m planning to also take next Friday off, meaning that next Friday will be another three-day week, before diving into new work the following week.


Photo of Rothley Castle, Northumberland, which we visited on Saturday afternoon. Dithered using this service.

Weeknote 08/2021

Dawn at Cresswell, northumberland

I am now, it would appear, the kind of person who lies in bed on a Saturday morning, laptop resting against raised knees, while the rest of the family get ready.

The announcement this week that the UK is slowly coming out of lockdown is welcome news, although I’m a bit apprehensive about the gap between the kids going back to school the week after next, and the time when my wife and I get vaccincated. The good news is that both my parents and sister have had their first dose.


This has been a busy week. At the moment, I only track the paid hours of work I do; this week there were 29.25 of those. Overall, I’d estimate that about 25% of my time is unremunerated (catch-up calls with contacts, sorting out my home office, etc.) so this was probably a 40-hour week.

That sounds pretty standard, until you factor in a pandemic, all of my work being on-screen, and the fact that I am pretty much incapable of working at anything less than 90% effort. I’ve also given up refined sugar for Lent, which has had a surprising impact on my energy levels.

I’m not complaining, as given the number of people out of work and/or struggling at the moment, it’s good to be able to provide for my family. But I would dearly love to get away somewhere other than the four walls of my home office. Despite being painted what I usually describe as ‘mental health green’ they feel like they’re closing in on me.


My work this week has been across the two Catalyst-funded projects in which I’m involved, some business development, and an ‘expert’ interview with a company wanting some input on an initiative they’ve got around digital. I had to sign an NDA around the latter.

The Catalyst project I’m project managing, Sector Challenge 9: Claiming Universal Credit remotely is coming together. The digital team we assembled put together is working on the four prototypes referenced in this overview slide deck:

  1. Visualisation of steps — service map showing overview of application process (including government departments and agencies). Vertical format for interactive navigation on mobile device.
  2. Check list — interactive check-box list of documents and other resources required to fill in UC form. Includes examples, and ‘ticks’ persist across browser sessions (on same device).
  3. In-context help — TBC in next week’s workshop session with charity partners, but Dan has already mocked-up the workflow for a chat bot that works via SMS.
  4. Real time support from a real-life professional — document comparing options for screensharing between claimant and adviser. Criteria to be co-created by project team.

We’ve got a meeting with representatives from the DWP’s Universal Credit team next week, and we’re presenting at the government’s internal service week show-and-tell event on Friday.

With the other Catalyst project, the one Laura is leading, we’re taking 10 charities through a definition process. This week was all about helping them create an architecture of participation for their charity project. Next week we’re onto service blueprints and thinking about how everything ties together.


Spring is definitely in the air, with daylight hours growing longer and the temperature rising. I always find mid-October to the end of February difficult, partly because of SAD (which I’ve learned to mitigate) but partly because of burnout. Having three weeks off at the end of last year really helped, so I’ve been able to sustain my energy levels pretty well, and am raring to go from March to September.

Next week, I’ll be continuing working on the Catalyst projects mentioned above. There’s another month left of mine, and two months of Laura’s, and then we’re back to client work, which we’re currently prioritising. Everyone always wants everything now


Image of dawn at Cresswell, Northumberland on Thursday morning. I woke at 04:30, couldn’t get back to sleep, so decided to go and watch the sunrise.

Weeknote 03/2021

Long shadow on the beach at Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Wherever in the world you happen to be, I think we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief now that Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th President of the USA.

Here in the UK, we’ve still got the clown-car government that my fellow countrymen and women inexplicably voted in immediately before the pandemic. They’re doing about as well as can be expected given their glaring incompetence, which has been compounded by the economic self-harm of Brexit.

Closer to home, though, everything is going well. The Catalyst project I’m leading through Dynamic Skillset had its kick-off meeting, and we found out that our co-op was successful in another funding bid. Laura and I recorded the pilot for a new podcast which led to us presenting a proposal for a series of six episodes to fellow co-op members. That proposal was passed, so look out for the first ‘proper’ episode in the next few weeks, and then monthly afterwards.


This week has included my son’s birthday; another teenage year which makes me feel even older than I did turning 40 last month. Another thing that made me feel ancient was attending an online workshop facilitated and attended by people a decade (or more) younger than me. I had to leave half-way through as, although I’m sure everyone else was getting a lot out of it, the format didn’t work for me.

I can definitely see how people get set in their ways as they get older. When you’re younger and you’re not quite sure what you like or how things work, it’s easy to throw caution to the wind and just try things. As you get older, with a bit less energy but many more responsibilities, it’s always easier to lean towards things you know have worked well before. Note to self: I need to fight against that tendency, at least some of the time.


Being back on Twitter is mostly great, although it means less time for blogging. I haven’t published anything here, and on Thought Shrapnel this week I’ve only managed to put out two link posts:

Another website-related thing I did do this week, though, was to create a new thesis page and redirect a couple of legacy domains to it. One of those domains was neverendingthesis.com, which used a version of MediaWiki which I don’t think I ever really upgraded. It finally fell over just shy of its millionth visit, which is incredible really.

I’ve also removed my ebook about digital literacies from Gumroad and made it freely-downloadable from the thesis page. Self-publishing works: in addition to the ~£800 I made pre-v1.0, I also made $3,587.46 in sales via Gumroad over the last few years!


Next week is mainly Catalyst work, although I’m trying to keep my hand in with Outlandish and do some business development for the co-op. I’m just thankful that I’m able to find decent-paying, meaningful work during a pandemic and keep my family relatively happy.


Photo taken on Thursday morning during a run on the beach at Druridge Bay, Northumberland.

Weeknote 02/2021

I know this isn’t exactly an original thought, but time seems to be acting weirdly at the moment. Everything is a bit discombobulating, but I guess everyone’s in the same boat. We’ll figure it out.

Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Meanwhile, I’m spending time working on interesting stuff with awesome people, and doing things which make me smile. Like what, you say? Well, walking in the winter sun with my family, playing PS4, reading, and listening to Kylie’s fabulous latest album, Disco. Good music is good music, people.


It’s been our daughter’s 10th birthday this week, which, if you can remember back that far, is a Big Deal. Double digits! She’s awesome and I’m very glad that she’s growing into a confident young woman who knows her own mind.

This week has also seen our son starting the process of choosing his GCSE option subjects, which takes me back to when I chose mine 26 years ago. It’s so important to choose things that interest you. For example, I did Media Studies and not only really enjoyed it — I made a plasticine stop-motion version of Match of the Day — but also got an ‘A’ and learned things that have stood me in good stead for the rest of my life.

One thing that’s different with his options, even in the decade since I left teaching, is the EBacc. However, long story short, I asked around and it’s basically meaningless. Doing well in subjects they’re interested in is much more important for teenagers than some kind of combination that pleases traditionalists.


While we’re on the subject of education, I’ve been tweeting a bit about the (monetary) value of Higher Education. While no-one needs to listen or read my opinions on the subject, I do have four university qualifications and have worked in the sector. However, as I said here in a write-up of a Twitter thread, I’m a bit disillusioned with the view that universities have a right to exist and everyone should just get with the programme.

Since leaving working in formal education, I’ve been working on product-related things, which live or die by ensuring user acceptance/delight. I know there’s a pandemic on, but Higher Education really needs to be dramatically shaken up. The UK government doesn’t help, of course, by creating a pseudo-market. We’ll see some institutions either merge or go to the wall, I expect.


Over at Thought Shrapnel, I published the following… (🔗 = link posts)


Work-wise this week, I’ve been:

  • Kicking off the Catalyst-funded project I’m project managing which is a collaboration between Dynamic Skillset and Bay Digital. We’re helping three civil society organisations with a ‘sector challenge’ to help remove barriers to remote claiming of Universal Credit. We’ve had to swap out one of the organisations at the last minute for various reasons, but the one that can’t be a core part will still be involved for user research.
  • Hanging out with my We Are Open colleagues. We spent a half day doing some strategy work, which Laura wrote up here.
  • Scaling back my work with Outlandish. I’ve realised I haven’t got time to get really involved in everything I was doing from August to December with them, so I’m going to have a chat next week about my continued work with them.

I also participated in a paid knowledge-sharing session which was very professionally-organised. I gave some insights into a particular area of my expertise, which was facilitated by an agency who connected me with an organisation by phone. They asked me a series of questions, appreciated my insights, and the money should be in my account soon. Colour me impressed!


Next week, I’m sinking my teeth even further into the Catalyst project, and starting some business development for We Are Open. That may or may not involve doing the pilot episode of a new podcast! I’m excited.

Weeknote 49/2020

Even while a thing is in the act of coming into existence, some part of it has already ceased to be.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Beach, sea, and clouds

This week, having paused Thought Shrapnel for this month, I published three posts here. All of them, for some reason, were questions:

The third references a decision I made on Wednesday morning, with the aid of my wife, to stop working in the middle of next week. I’m going to take the rest of the year off and recharge.


I started this week in a very pleasant way, going for a walk on the beach with my mother to celebrate her birthday. It was cold, but the light was beautiful and the sky was clear.

Work-wise this week, I’ve been collaborating with Outlandish on productisation, Catalyst bids, and new products and services around ‘Building OUT’ (Openness, Understanding, and Trust). On Thursday evening, a group of us from Outlandish did the online version of the Amsterdam Catacombs event room, which was mildly terrifying (but fun!)

On Wednesday afternoon, I attended an interesting Co-op College workshop called Let’s Talk About Race. In the morning I’d participated in the internal testing version of a Building OUT workshop on team communication, so I had a very professional development-y kind of day.

Other than that, I’ve been purposely working more slowly than usual, which I actually find difficult. In my twenties, I worked close to 100% speed all the time, which led to burnout. In my thirties, I’ve managed 90% much of the time, with occasional migraines forcing me to pause. Now, as I approach 40, I’m looking for ways to work both quickly and sustainably.


I don’t usually write weeknotes in December, and I want to liberate myself from things that I feel I should be doing, so I’m going to make this the last one of 2020. It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it?


Photo of Druridge Bay, Northumberland.

Weeknote 46/2020

This quotation from Marcus Aurelius really stuck with me this week:

Reflect often upon the rapidity with which all existing things, or things coming into existence, sweep past us and are carried away. The great river of Being flows on without pause; its actions for ever changing, its causes shifting endlessly, hardly a single thing standing still; while ever at hand looms infinity stretching behind and before – the abyss in which all things are lost to sight. In such conditions, surely a man were foolish to gasp and fume and fret, as though the time of his troubling could ever be of long continuance.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (Book Five)

This has been, all things considered, a good week. On Wednesday, my therapist effectively discharged me — although I’ll be doing some maintenance sessions every so often. I’m much better equipped to deal with things both professionally and personally than before I started last September.

I originally sought therapy after the death of a good friend which threw up all sorts of things that I didn’t feel capable of dealing with adequately. Now, over a year later, although I’d much rather have Dai with us, for me the growth I’ve undergone has been a small silver lining to that tragic event.


This week I published three posts here:

…and on Thought Shrapnel:


The bulk of my work this week was carried out with and for Outlandish. I ran a short workshop on productisation, did some work on their Building OUT strand, and otherwise talked to people about how to get the organisations ready to be more product-focused.

On Friday, I travelled to the Peak District to meet my good friend Bryan Mathers. As I’ve pointed out in previous weeknotes, of late things within the co-op could be better, so we decided to have a chat to figure out what that meant for our relationship. Virtual meetings are great 95% of the time, but sometimes you need to in the same place as someone, going for a walk and an extended discussion.

I’ve decided not to do any further work through We Are Open, and instead put my energies into new ventures. For now, that means I’ve been spending time updating the website of Dynamic Skillset, my consultancy business. More on that soon, no doubt.


Next week I’ve got some conversations lined up, more work with Outlandish, and planning to put together a consortium to bid for some Catalyst funding they’re announcing on Monday.


Image looking south from Higger Tor in the Peak District, England.

Weeknote 39/2020

Tux sticker for Windows key on keyboard

It’s been a busy week, yet here I am at 05:30 on a Saturday morning writing my weeknote. Why? A combination of having a cold, an increasingly weak bladder, and things swirling around my head.


I shared in a previous weeknote that, although I’m at my desk in my home office between 08:00 and 16:00 every day, of a 37.5 hour working week, I’ve been getting paid for around 27.5 hours. This week, I knocked off early at 14:00 on Friday, reducing the total number of hours I was available for work to 35.5, and I got paid for 34.25 of them.

I’m sharing this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, any time you track numbers and try to make them go up, you can do so. Second, a few people have asked me recently about our co-op’s model for getting paid, so I thought I’d write a few words about it here. I will just add a disclaimer that it’s always a work in progress, and this might have changed by the time you read it if you’re not reading this in September 2020.

As, we are open, an overview of what I’m about to say is available on our wiki. Basically, from the day rate we charge clients, we take off 25% as a co-op ‘pot’ for a range of activities. This includes paying for:

  • General expenses (accountant, admin support, various platforms)
  • In-person meet-ups (remember those?!) and monthly co-op days
  • Business development at an agreed internal member rate
  • Internal projects (e.g. updating website) at an agreed internal member rate
  • Relevant stuff that members want to do (e.g. events, professional development, CoTech fund)

I mentioned this is always a work in progress, and we’re only just now (four years in!) agreeing a lightweight process for internal projects over £1k. In general, we generate processes in a ‘just in time’ rather than ‘just in case’ kind of way. Other than ones we’re legally required to have, of course, like safeguarding, privacy, and various fairness policies.

All of which is a round-about way of saying that one of the reasons I got paid for most of my hours this week was that I got paid at the agreed internal member rate for business development.


Another reason was that I spent a good deal of time setting up things for the Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response project that I’m leading from our side. We kick off on Monday with an full-day session for a cohort of nine youth-focused charities and non-profits, teaching them how to do discovery work. This is an intense user-focused four week process where each organisation:

  • Identifies a problem to be solved
  • Performs some user research
  • Comes up with some potential solutions
  • Tests one or more solutions

There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, and the main thing is to try and prevent organisations jumping straight to ‘solutioneering’ (as I’d call it).

Mercifully, I’m not alone in doing this for our co-op, otherwise I’d collapse like a flan in a cupboard. There will be four members involved in this project, plus my lovely wife, Hannah, who will be joining in to help support organisations through the user research phase.


Other co-op work kicking off at the moment is some web strategy work for Greenpeace International, which I’m looking forward to getting involved with. Greenpeace is a network of organisations, with National and Regional Offices (NROs) ensuring that global campaigns are translated and contextualised for the areas they serve. They also run their own campaigns.

Some of this work will build on what we’ve been doing with the Greenpeace Planet 4 team over the last six months, and Laura has been doing with them for the last five years. It’s great to be involved in work like this that has the potential to make such an impact at scale.


I’m also continuing to be on loan to Outlandish, another CoTech co-op which contains absolutely lovely and talented people. I’ve been working on productisation with them, and developing the soon-to-be-renamed Sociocracy stream of work with them. I’ll have to go down to one day a week in October due to everything else that’s on, but I’m hoping to continue working with them into 2021.


On the home front, our son had a cold at the start of the week which, because he’s asthmatic, meant he had a cough. The upshot was that he had to have a COVID-19 test, which of course came back negative, but did mean that we all had to isolate for 24 hours until the results came back. It’s going to be a very disruptive school year for our two children, I think, but at least their schools are upping their remote learning game a bit.


Due to all of the above, I didn’t do as much writing as I would have liked, only managing to publish a short post here entitled Running with the wolves, and the following on Thought Shrapnel:

As a side note, my decision to only auto-post to Twitter a few months ago means I’m a lot calmer and less anxious than I would have been, I think, about the state of the world. I mention this because I logged in for the first time in a while to check something and realised just what a doomscrolling hell pit it’s devolved into in the past few years.

The advice I’ve been giving those wondering how to quit mainstream social networks is:

  1. Connect to the people you care about via other means (e.g. chat apps, email)
  2. Tell people you’re going to be quitting the platform at a particular date
  3. Delete the app off your phone
  4. Limit the time you spend on the social network and try to post as little as possible
  5. Deactivate your account

Once you’ve deactivated it, you may, after a period of reflection, do what I did and turn your account into broadcast-only mode. You can use services like IFTTT and Zapier to auto-post from pretty much anywhere.


This weekend, I’m going to focus on getting better. Specifically, although I feel rubbish when I don’t do any exercise, it also tends to delay my recovery from cold and flu symptoms. So I’m going to try and do as little as possible.

Next week, as I’ve mentioned, I’ll be working on Catalyst Discovery, Outlandish, and Greenpeace stuff. It’s good to be busy!

Finally, for those wondering, this post took almost exactly an hour to write, as it’s now coming up to 06:30. Time for me to go back to bed…


Photo of a Tux sticker (Linux mascot) that I bought to replace the Windows logo on my keyboard this week. Sometimes it’s the small things in life that bother you the most.

Weeknote 37/2020

I saw this illustration somewhere this week, but just as the days and weeks are indistinguishable at the moment, likewise my digital channels bleed into one. Every day, it seems, is: get up, spend most of the working day at the computer, switch screens for ‘leisure’ time, and then go to bed.

As Mark Frauenfelder reports for BoingBoing, perhaps it’s not just me — everyone’s in the same boat:

The issue with 2020, particularly with everyone in lockdown, is that we’re all stuck in the same four walls. And even though there are stressful things that occupy our minds, the fact is we’re not laying down very distinct memories, largely because we’re not moving around to different locations. Everything blurs together because every day looks essentially just like the last one. So when you look back, you think, We’ve been in lockdown for… how long? What day is this?

David Eagleman, via BoingBoing

I’ve been reflecting on Oliver Burkeman’s last column for The Guardian, which I shared via Thought Shrapnel last week. There’s so much condensed wisdom in there, but, like Austin Kleon, I found the framing around ‘enlargement’ when making life choices extremely useful:

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking, “Will this make me happy?”, but “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?” We’re terrible at predicting what will make us happy: the question swiftly gets bogged down in our narrow preferences for security and control. But the enlargement question elicits a deeper, intuitive response. You tend to just know whether, say, leaving or remaining in a relationship or a job, though it might bring short-term comfort, would mean cheating yourself of growth. (Relatedly, don’t worry about burning bridges: irreversible decisions tend to be more satisfying, because now there’s only one direction to travel – forward into whatever choice you made.)

Oliver Burkeman, The eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life

I haven’t talked much publicly about what went down when I left Moodle, nor will I, but it’s fair to say that I well and truly burned my bridges there. But the great thing about it is that I feel enlarged by doing so; I stuck to my principles, was supported by the team I’d put together (who also quit) and have moved onto things which make me happier.


For various reasons, I’ve started tracking the amount of paid work I do, and how much it earns me. Different clients, contracts, and types of work earn me different day rates. Sometimes this varies quite a bit.

Most days I spend from 08:00 to 16:00 in my office doing some form of work, with about 30 minutes for lunch. This adds up to a standard working week of 37.5 hours. However, over the last month I’ve been paid for the following:

  • Week beginning 17th August: 27.9 hours
  • Week beginning 24th August: 26.2 hours
  • Week beginning 31st August: 28.16 hours
  • Week beginning 7th September: 25.25 hours

That means, on average, I’m spending over 10 hours per week on things I’m not paid for. This week that included some pro-bono work for an Open Source project (which I’ll say more about when it’s got a proper web presence), replying to emails, research, blogging, admin, having a chat with a client about upcoming work, and a one-hour therapy session.

The latter was particularly welcome this week given some low-level drama going on in our co-op. For the last few months I’ve been working on my avoidant tendencies, which includes often apologising for situations in an attempt to make them go away. My therapist suggested that, this time, it might do me some good to just allow the dust to settle rather than trying to hastily fix things.

I’m particularly enjoying the work I’m doing with Outlandish at the moment, as I feel I’m able to apply some of the product skills I’ve developed over the past few years. There’s more wider ‘productisation’ work there, but also specific help I’m helping with related a stream of products and services related to sociocracy. I overhauled the workshop page for the

The initial contracts for those of us on loan from fellow CoTech co-ops were to the end of this month, so I’m not sure if I’ll be working with them after the next couple of weeks, but either way it’s definitely been a positive experience. Working with Aaron has been a highlight, and we overhauled the workshop page for Sociocracy 101: consent-based decision-making this week, among other things.


Other work this week has involved:

  • Helping Laura with a slide deck as we wrap-up a six-month contract with the Greenpeace Planet 4 team. We may remain engaged with them in some way over the next few months, but also have two contracts with other Greenpeace teams starting soon!
  • Updating learnwith.weareopen.coop to make more publicly-accessible a course on openness we initially put together for the Planet 4 team. I also ensured the new We are Open branding and logo is featured on that site. Our main site will be updated soon.
  • Drafting a post for the co-op blog about the Catalyst and Social Mobility Commission-funded work we finished recently. Erica Neve and I will be presenting about this at an upcoming Tech4Good event in a couple of weeks’ time.
  • Talking with Ken McCarthy about some work I’ll be doing with Waterford Institute of Technology after they were successful in a grant application. Fun fact: Ken has not missed a day in 10 years of writing at 750words.com!
  • Catching up with Erica to do a bit of planning around our the event session mentioned above.
  • Deleting my Slideshare account after downloading the 83 presentations I’d uploaded there between 2008 and 2017. I didn’t fancy having my data mined after Microsoft sold the service to Scribd. More details here.

I wrote three posts on this blog as part of the #100DaysToOffload challenge:

…and posted eight times with a variety of links and quotations from things I’ve been reading over at Thought Shrapnel:


Next week, guess what? I’ll be at home. I’ve got some Outlandish, Greenpeace, and internal co-op work to do, but am also available for more work! I’ve updated my hire me page specially. I think ideally I want to spend my time doing more product stuff. It’s enjoyable and I think I’m pretty good at it.

Weeknote 25/2020

This was my last working week at Moodle. I have a few weeks of holiday to take as I ease back into full-time consultancy through We Are Open Co-op.

Quick overview of MoodleNet v1.0 beta

I repeat how proud I am of what the very talented part-time MoodleNet team achieved under often difficult circumstances. Check out my previous two weeknotes for further details:

If you’re looking for some talnted developers, I suggest you get in touch with Mayel de Borniol, Ivan Minutillo, Karen Kleinbauerů, and James Laver who may have capacity for your project. In addition, it’s worth enquiring about the availability of Alessandro Giansanti, Katerina Papadopoulou and Antonis Kalou who are equally talented, and have been working on a part-time basis for Moodle and Moodle Partners. It’s been a pleasure and privilege working with all of them, and it was great to sign off on Friday by sharing a virtual drink. We’ll all be staying in touch!

I do, of course, wish Moodle all the very best for the future and am grateful for some of the people I have met and experiences I have had over the past two and a half years.


No Drama Llama

In addition to handover documentation for Moodle, this week I’ve been doing a small amount of work through the co-op with the Greenpeace Planet 4 team, and a lot with UpRising. For the latter, I ran a couple of workshops on Google Classroom, as well as a troubleshooting session as they pivot their offline offerings to online provision.

As a co-op, we’ve been discussing how to update our website. There’s a tension between representing ourselves ‘corporately’ and representing ourselves as being made up of individual members, some of which are quite different from one another. Ultimately, 95% of our work comes through clients knowing us as people first and foremost, so really the website is a sense-check or something for our contacts to pass on to others in their organisation.

I’ve put together a couple of proposal for prospective clients this week. It’s nice to see that people are finally recognising that working online is just as valuable, and just as hard work, as doing so offline.


Last weekend I came across #100DaysToOffload which I started addressing immediately with three posts over the past few days:

I’m looking forward to writing more next week. It’s quite nice to have permission not to necessarily have to produce your ‘best’ work, but rather to bash out thoughts and just share them with the world.

For Thought Shrapnel, I put together:

You can subscribe to the weekly newsletter, which goes out every Sunday, here.


Next week, I’ll be doing more work with Greenpeace, UpRising, and the 10 charities we’re supporting with funding from the Social Mobility Commission and Catalyst. I’ll also be doing some business development for the co-op, and get back involved in the wider CoTech network.

We’ve booked a holiday in early August in a basic holiday cottage owned by friends of my in-laws in Devon. We’ve stayed there a couple of times before and it’s the perfect place to choose to switch off and spend time away from the drama and frantic pace of recent weeks. I can’t wait!

Finally, a very happy Fathers Day to my dad, Keith Belshaw. I’m delighted that he’s safe and well, and actually fitter now than before the lockdown started! It was great to see both of my parents yesterday during a socially-distanced visit to their back garden which, as ever, was blooming with flora and fauna.


Header image of my favourite tree in Bluebell Wood, near where I live in Morpeth, England.

Weeknote 12/2020

I’m not sure what can be said that hasn’t already been said about the last few days. Schools are now shut in the UK, along with pubs, restaurants, etc. While we’re not on imposed lockdown like Italy or Spain, we decided to keep the kids home early, and I’ve persuaded my parents to limit the amount they go out.

I just wish we’d listened to Bill Gates back in 2015.

It’s hard to imagine a global pandemic when everything is fine, I guess.


As usual, I split my week between MoodleNet and working on things for the co-op. This week, however, I added into the mix contributing a small amount to the homeschooling of our children.

With everything that’s going on around educational institutions pivoting to online learning, now would be the perfect time to launch MoodleNet. Teachers across different institutions could be sharing collections of resources and engaging in pedagogical discussion via the platform.

However, we only have a small, part-time team working on this. In addition, we’re essentially inventing a new category of social networking. It’s complicated, and we’re a few weeks away from federation testing, never mind user testing.

That’s why, this week, I brought forward work on a crowdfunding plan. Doing so means we should be able to increase the capacity of the existing team, and/or hire more people to work on the project. More details on that soon.

On the co-op front, we all worked on a very productive short pre-mortem for joint ventures that we enter into. I always enjoy doing these kinds of activities, as they’re so enlightening and collaborative. I also did a little bit of work on our collaboration with Greenpeace. Our planned in-person work is currently being re-scoped to online.


Overall, though, my life hasn’t been so different to normal. To be honest, at times it’s felt more like me working from home while the kids are on half-term rather than living through a life-threatening pandemic.

A decade ago, I would have been a ‘key worker’, a teacher and senior leader in schools. My life, like so many people’s I know, would have been turned upside down. But over the last 10 years I’ve slowly retreated into spending 95% of my time at home, interspersed with national and international travel.

It’s not such a bad life if you get the right balance of exercise, nutrition, and sleep — what I call the ‘three pillars’ of productivity. What I’m going to miss is mixing up the routine over the next few months through travel. At least my wife and I got to visit Bruges just before all this began.


When we were in Bruges, the Belgian city of beer and waffles, I did put my Lent fast of refined sugar and alcohol on hold. Other than that, however, I have been avoiding them both, and lost a noticeable amount of weight.

Continuing to avoid sugar and alcohol during what could be months at home with one’s family, however, would be a test to anyone’s willpower. So I’ve re-scoped what I’m doing to help me differentiate weekdays and weekends. During the week I’ll avoid refined sugar and alcohol, but allow myself (as I did last night) a bit of cake and whisky at the weekends!


Right now, everyone is so full of advice for what others should be doing. Most of this is well-meaning, some of it is a desperate pitch for work, and a small percentage of it is self-aggrandising. I’m just looking after myself and the people around me. If everyone does that, I think we’ll be OK.

As Seth Godin pointed out this week, panic loves company. He links to a post by Margo Aaron in which she encourages us to disconnect from outrage culture:

The worst possible thing to do for your immune system is to live in a constant state of stress. And if this global pandemic requires a healthy strong immune system in order to fight it, then the most responsible thing you can do if you’re feeling afraid is to stop watching the news.

The story you’re telling yourself is you can’t disconnect because you won’t be “informed.” I’m telling you: You’re not informed as it is. The only thing you have to gain by strategically disconnecting is your sanity.

Margo Aarson

So there we are. I’m not going be disconnecting from Twitter and social media, not during the week anyway.


Next week looks a lot like this week, and so on, and on, into the distance. My aim is to keep spirits up, resources stocked, and exercise done. After an enjoyable Friday meetup via video conference of some of the members of our Slack channel, I may try and make that a weekly thing.


Photo taken by me during a family walk in the wilds of Northumberland earlier this week.

css.php