Open Thinkering


Doug Uses This

Doug in sunglasses looking at the camera while lying on a hammock in a French park

Uses This is a website which asks interesting people the same set of questions about the tools and techniques they use to get things done. I mention the Clay Shirky interview in conversation or in writing at least every few months.

The FAQ suggests creating a /uses page to answer the same questions on your own site. So here goes.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Doug Belshaw, and I’m an technologist, leader, and educator advocating for greater openness and transparency in the world. I’m a member of WAO, which I helped set up in 2016. We specialise in practical utopias and rewilding work, at the intersections of our five areas of focus: sustainable work, open recognition, open working, climate action, and worker ownership.

I have previously worked in formal education (schools/universities), for Mozilla and Moodle, and as an independent consultant. I find it weird that we largely define ourselves by the work we do rather than the things we’re interested in, but I guess that list would be too long.

What hardware do you use?

This changes regularly, usually towards the end of the calendar year. I’m typing this on a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga running ChromeOS Flex. Basically, I loved the Pixelbook line, with it’s 3:2 screen format, but mine started to get too slow. So I looked for the a similar form factor, found a deal, and everything fell into place. It auto-updates, and is no hassle, which is what I need when I’m on the go. This is usually working in coffee shops or at events events.

When I’m in my home office, I’ve got a Mac Studio which I pair with a 28″ Dell 4K monitor. Monitor backlighting courtesy of Philips Hue. I have a Logitech C920 webcam, use a vertical mouse, and have recently invested in a new Logitech G213 Prodigy gaming keyboard (which I bought mainly because it lights up like my giant mouse pad). Although I can touchtype, I’m not particularly fussy about keyboards. Oh, and I have a black IKEA BEKANT sit/stand desk.

I run GrapheneOS on my Pixel 6 which sandboxes Google Play, etc. I use the Before Launcher which simplifies things greatly and allows granular control of notifications. Only those for phone calls, text messages, and unmuted Signal chats vibrate my Garmin Venu 2s smartwatch. No notification ever appears on the lockscreen of my phone, nor does the device make a noise or vibrate.

And what software?

I’ve gone into it a bit above, but operating systems: macOS, ChromeOS, and Android. I used Linux almost exclusively from 2015 to 2022 but I decided I wanted an easier life. I’ve mentioned Signal, and I obviously use the Chrome browser on ChromeOS, but I should also mention that I’ve started using Arc browser on my Mac which is ridiculously good. I also use Etherpad, Google Workspace, Loom, Slack, Toggl, Trello, Whimsical, and Zoom every day at work. ChatGPT, which I pay for, has also become something I use daily as a kind of assistant.

Outside of work, or rather, as well as for work, I use Mastodon and other Fediverse platforms such as Pixelfed and Calckey. I run instances of the latter two, and am on for my main account.

What would be your dream setup?

The web as the platform. I was a big believer in the dream of FirefoxOS and think that there’s nothing the web can’t do in terms of apps. Anything that I can run in a browser, I usually do.

My current setup is faster than I need it to be, mainly because I’m an impatient person and don’t like waiting for things. Having worked from home for over a decade, I’ve got almost the perfect remote work setup, complete with an office separate to my house.

That being said, as Clay Shirky said (see?), “current optimization is long-term anachronism” so I’m absolutely fine with changing things up. I’m usually pretty happy so long as I don’t have to use Microsoft products.