Open Thinkering


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, 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,, and

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, 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.