Heroes are all around you

So about an hour or so ago I was prompted to remember that I haven’t blogged for ages by the brilliant @weeklyblogclub setup who suggested it’s a quiet week for contributions. I haven’t blogged because i’ve been off on the last incidental research adventure and forgetting to stop and write it up! 1 I’ve passed three MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) in that time and so it may be a good time to start to reflect on it again. Not in this post though.

Seeking inspiration then: this weeks WeeklyBlogClub topic is: “Heroes.” To try and kickstart the grey goo back into actually doing some blogging I thought I would set myself the lightningpost challenge of writing about that for half an hour or so. (WWJEDD?)

When I was small I always had in my head that Heroes are a) famous and b) good fighters and c) save the world on a regular basis from monsters. They often have magical powers or divine support or fate’s whim or something like that too. They are not like everybody else because these supernatural elements make them something more.

Of course that is true in films and books and television and as you grow you accept that there’s a little bit more to it and that your hero could be Albert Einstein or Martin Luther King or Buzz Aldrin but really there’s still this thing there, a little dancing belief, that these people have something more than other people do. After that I’ve never really thought on it much…

Coincidentally, this last few weeks has given me a chance to reflect, at least a little bit, on heroes. I’ve been reading a book “Invisible Giants” by Lindsay Levin. It’s good, a little evangelical at times perhaps 2, but ultimately its a very moving personal perspective. The book is about experiences of Leaders Quest – a programme that connects leaders from all sorts of organisations to experiences across the world. That might be taking them to visit a leading university to see the newest rising stars, or it might be visiting a run down shanty town and talking about the aspirations of those individuals who live there too 3. The idea is that it gives people a chance to see the world anew and maybe reflect on what they could add to it. In doing these Quests Lindsay has had opportunity to pick up on all sorts of interesting people who you’ve probably never heard of who are doing some truly great things and she shares their stories through the book. Forget leaders, these could be Heroes but wait they’re not famous?

I’ve also been rechecking in on some of my favorite TED talks. TED is a great place to see the volume of relatively unknown enthusiasts who are doing some great and wonderful things and mostly doing them because they’re passionate about them. Here’s 3 interesting ones: How to Learn Anything in 20 days, The difference between winning and success, How I harnessed the wind . These could all be Heroes but wait they don’t have magical powers?

I’ve also seen some nice videos linked via twitter highlighting a little bit of hero in all of us. My favourite is this one, about the hidden help captured on hundreds of russian car video cameras. People helping people. I think that’s where i need to revisit my childhood definition a bit. These could all be heroes too but wait they’re not fighting to save the world?

So heroes a) are not always famous b) are not always good fighters c) are not saving the world regularly from monsters. Instead they are a) making the world better however they can b) passionate about what they do and c) they never give up in the face of it. The truth of it is, real heroes are just real people trying hard. There’s no magic involved. You’ve probably sat next to one. You might be sat next to one right now.

“Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead
Of hoping when our dreams are dead
Of praying when our hopes have fled
Yet losing, not afraid to fall
If bravely, we have given all”


  1. The incidental researcher isn’t afraid of the long tail
  2. Most motivational books are
  3. It might just be me but these are the most interesting

The small things

That Janet E Davis is always highlighting that blog posts don’t always need to be essays so i thought i’d share a small thing.

For 3 years I sang songs to my daughter and after 1 she started to join in and after 2 she could sing on her own. This year she can teach me songs! This week she taught me this one:

I have a little turtle, his name is tiny tim.
I put him in the bathtub to see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water, he drank up all the soap.
I put him down to bed with a bubble in his throat.

I think the small thing for me is that children never cease to amaze me (especially mine). The other one is that you’re never too old to learn something from someone younger than you :D.

Here’s a youtube of the closest video match I found:

The circuitry of my head

UnknownSo as part of the ongoing exploration of online learning or MOOCing around as i’m fondly calling it, I enrolled in a second MOOC. This MOOC is nothing to do with anything I really need to know. I am doing it for the love of learning. Suitably it is the Learning Creative Learning MOOC.

I might step back a bit here. Just a little though.

Just over a blog posting ago…

Before I found a tweet about OpenBadges and before that led me to MOOCs and the joining of, I took a small test on a whim. The test highlighted that I am motivated by learning. This is not the learning which results in a piece of paper that motivates me. This motivation is through the solid act of learning in itself. I liken this to experiencing a puzzle box.

“Before you lies a simple box unknown, locked with a mechanism that can be discovered through tactile exploration. Unlock this mystery box and whether you find it is empty or full, the satisfaction is not in the contents, but in the opening.”

The discovery of being motivated by learning resonated with me on some level. I had been feeling a little unmotivated recently and this suggested a way forward. Looking through mental lists of options I would cycle through over and over again finding not a single one that appealed. In part this is laziness: I am easily dissuaded from difficult things. In part it is tiredness: I have a lot on! In part though: it is because I lacked a motivation. So I am on a quest to find one.

A modern take on the puzzle box
A modern take on the puzzle box

Let’s step back into creative learning again.

Learning about learning…

Each week of the MOOC reading is assigned and tasks are suggested. Task 1 is around doing the reading and reflecting on it.The reading this week was around connected learning (video) as an approach which differs from traditional education by leveraging the interest of an individual and allowing that interest to develop in a way that improves their academic, civic or employment prospects. The connected element means that new media helps develop this innate passion or talent. E.g., in the plainest of terms, the writer is allowed to write for the passion of it, they post their work online and receive feedback from peers on their interest. They learn from this and eventually become an author 1.

I haven’t reflected much but isn’t there something to that (especially for those learning-motivated) which makes good sense? I don’t think it’s a new idea – there seems to be a trend recently for the internet to find a new way of doing something and for people to think that nothing like it ever happened before. I’m confident that there was connected learning before connected computers which is why I like the phrase from one of the readings: “New media amplifies opportunities for connected learning.” The internet is a massive great big amplifier of things, including learning, then. Now that I like the idea of!

The second task is much more intriguing: read Seymour Papert’s essay on the “Gears of My Childhood” and write about an object from your childhood that interested and influenced you.

Much more up my street in my current exploration of the world. Perhaps a little bit ego-orientated but internal focus helps introverts like me make sense of the world. Hopefully we then find a way to apply that externally.

So let’s jump back again. Way back this time. I called this post the circuitry of my head because it resonated with an object pertinent in my childhood. The computer. I’m adding in a second object though: DNA.

The computer and DNA

My earliest memory of a computer was in school. I’m not sure what it was. It had a game involving a train and traffic signals. It had a painting app. It was all I can remember about the machine. I played with it twice, once in Year 1 and once in Year 2. Nobody really knew how to use it beyond those two apps i’m sure. I’m fairly confident it was an IBM PC AT given what I remember about it.

My second earliest memory was when my mum and I lived with my Nan. An uncle at the time had a BBC Micro. I’m also convinced that he never really knew how to use it. One day when he was out I sneaked in and retyped in a command i’d seen him type. It was probably a load command of some kind. A while later something happened.

Here’s the thing. After those early experiences I didn’t have a computer until I was older. It was a Commodore 64. My family never had the money for computers those early years so I spent many of them still wondering about those cream white boxes with the green text or the poor colour range and what made them work. What was inside them that brought them to life.

Commodore Datassette tape drive
Commodore Datassette tape drive – by Toni Saarikko

Those same years I was learning that I was broken. That what was bringing me to life was also, slowly, destroying me. At age 8 I did not have the real comprehension of that 2. At age 8 I believe two objects in my universe collided quietly and even I didn’t notice for a while.

I found that Commodore, and the Amiga that followed and the 486 after that and the Pentium and the AMDs and the Core 2’s and ultimately the i7 i have today were all there at the moments I needed them.

I learned about computers at a time people really started to use them personally (80s). I learned about the internet arguably when it started to enter the mainstream (90s). I studied the science of computing just before it has become essential in information societies (00s) and now I am productive on a daily basis using them despite their still being an element of seperation (10s).

DNAs influence has followed a similiar trajectory. I lost any potential in physical pursuits early on (80s). I went to secondary school at a time when it became an option for those with disabilities to study in the mainstream (90s). I went to university at a time when funding existed to make it feasible for me to leave home (00s) and finally if computers didn’t exist as they do today my access to the world would be severely limited and my job would be difficult 3. Books for a start are impractical. But research doesn’t need books anymore.

So in true double-helix fashion two strands have been joined, two objects have provided a structure for my path through the world, a sequence to progress by. The DNA was an object influencing me behind the scenes, subtly limiting certain choices and promoting others. The computer was acting as a magnet pulling me toward it, clearly highlighting an interesting path forward. It’s probably also the reason my dissertation was in genetic algorithms. I still have a mild fascination with evolution today.

I think it wasn’t the only path open to me. I might have taken another path. I might have written or reported. I might have travelled or read. I might have managed or sketched. All but for one thing: I need to understand the puzzles in the boxes. It’s the circuitry of my head.

Digital DNA - [attribution unkown :(]
Digital DNA – [attribution unkown :(]


  1. This really oversimplifies process, but it is the core of it.
  2. At age 30, i’m still not sure I have it
  3. Independently that is

The Incidental Researcher Case 2: Open Badges and Free Education

A new case for the Incidental Researcher recently came in. It all started when I spotted a tweet referring to OpenBadges. This ‘badge’ thing didn’t even have chance to build as a niggle in the back of my head, I just followed the incidental researcher’s prime instinct 1 and found myself following it up…


Incidental Method 1 The first question: “What is an OpenBadge?”

A good first question. It doesn’t require much to answer either. Remember when you were 8 and you tied that great knot at Cubs, or 9 and you swam your 20m unaided 2 or any age under about 18 and you did something meritable? What happened? Correct! Someone gave you a badge you could stitch onto your respective club shirt or scrapbook and display with pride, perhaps even strut about with. OpenBadge’s are the digital equivalent of the traditional badge earning process. You do something worthwhile and you get a digital badge for your digital backpack.

The folks behind it are the wonderful Mozilla Foundation and there’s a website all about it here. You can even earn a badge for learning about it! Like me :

. . .

Following the leads: “So what?”

Trickier question! What value do these digital badges hold? For me the so what moment was as I trawled through the ‘about’ page and saw this gem:

Using Mozilla’s Open Badge Infrastructure, any organization or community can issue badges backed by their own seal of approval. Learners and badge earners can then collect badges from different sources and display them across the web—on their resume, web site, social networking profiles, job sites or just about anywhere.

Let’s break this down a bit:

  1. The overall keyword here is “Open” as in Open Source, Open Data, Open Access, Open Anything. Mozilla are building an infrastructure for anyone to use, for everyone to benefit from and ultimately for everyone to value.
  2. Any organisation can use this infrastructure and that might just be a game changer for the small groups and the niche learners. I can imagine local community organisations awarding badges in comunity development or green fingers.
  3. The earners own their badges and can wear them proudly on their digital selves on facebook, on blogs, on linkedin on twitter etc – in a way they can make your CV more alive. In theory the authentication mechanisms mean badges lead back to their origins and can be validated and investigated.

Essentially then Open Badges are a way of celebrating the learning, experience and participation of people. They record and surround your achievement much in the way of certificates, trophies and resumes do. Surely this is a good thing!

There is a whole area of this i’d also love to explore around badges as an expression of personal identity and status. Badges as meaningful symbols. Badges as a history of lifelong learning. That’s before badges as false icons and all the other negative potentials! This isn’t the time for that but there’s a world there to explore.

Incidental Method 2: Seek wisdom from others

I scholared 3 for views on this and found this brilliant overview which links out to a range of opinions: Motivating the Learner: Mozilla’s Open Badges Program by Emily Goligoski, 2012 4. This quote sort of summarised the potential of Open Badges for me:

The badgepack where badges are stored
The badgepack where badges are stored

“If realized, a ‘thriving badge ecosystem’ would make accomplishments and traits recognizable in ways that degrees and online profiles currently fall short”

I think there is wisdom somewhere in that. Something around how nuanced a collection of badges could be over a generic degree title. Masters degrees currently tend to add specificity to a knowledge base but I also know that most Bachelors degrees with similiar titles are very different.

Incidental Method 3 5: Widen the parameters

The incidental researcher is not held to one path of investigation on a case. This method involves, by happenstance or deliberate thought, the recognition that there are other interesting paths toward the same goal of understanding. In my case it was happenstance I just spotted a forum post on the LGAs Knowledge Hub referring to a FREE online course. Inspired by the OpenBadges investigation I had to know more about “free education”.

The course itself is delivered by Indiana University, Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center and is called Information Visualisation.

The first question was What type of Course is this? It was easy to discover. This kind of course is called a MOOC. A Massive Open Online Course which is a course for anyone to join and which isn’t limited to just 10 students. It takes part online. You have to do work to pass it. In this particular case you are awarded a certificate, and a badge. See what I did there – I found the connection!

MOOCs and Badges seem like a match made in heaven. One is the learning process, one is the certification process. I can’t help but wonder if Open Badges can be the way that MOOCs are validated and recorded by the masses.  …and MOOCs are a serious thing. I followed the leads and created my own count and prediction for 2013 on the number of MOOC providers (largely universities). It’s undergoing rapid growth!:


MOOC Provider Count - Click for the Google Spreadsheet
MOOC Provider Count – Click for the Google Spreadsheet 


Step to the right, investigate alleyway

Here’s the thing: Credibility is held in the perception of something. If I think your Master’s degree certificate, endorsed by Oxford University is awesome and makes you a credible expert, It’s because I perceive Oxford university to be credible and awesome too 6. However, a series of articles about failing standards will very quickly evaporate that credibility. So if I think your Chufty Badge 7 from the Digital University of Life is credible, then it is.

Right then. I will have to take this opportunity to step sideways and make a prediction. I predict that more courses will go online. More free courses will go online. Some of those free courses will earn a reputation and be perceived as credible. Especially those with a level of rigour and demonstratable outcomes. I consider if 8 out of 10 up and coming designers have a lovely. Design Badge from the Free School of Design then that badge becomes CREDIBLE.

Soon a set of specific badges will become as credible (if not more so) as that Oxford Certificate 8. When a level of quality learning becomes free the role of universities will start to change and the market for learning will change substantially – just as the traditional high street now finds itself challenged by the alternative online megastores like Ebay and Amazon. It might take years but another digital shift will take place toward Education.

I even sought wisdom from others on this:

We are approaching a tipping point where education and educators can use technology to reach almost every person on the planet inexpensively. However, the result may not look like the conventional university experience we recognize today. These are exciting times for educators, but it remains to be seen how these developments will change the structure of education, influence the purpose of institutions, and shape the role of the professor. – Stephen Carson and Jan Philipp Schmidt Academic Matters Journal of Higher Education

Incidental Method 4: Immerse yourself in the case

The incidental researcher buries themselves in discovery.  There is a free course on a topic I am very much interested in and which appears in the middle, incidentally, of researching open education, I have little choice then do I. I have signed up for this course and will report back.

Incidental Research. Case 2. Case…. OPEN

Source: Wikimedia Commons


  1. Curiousness of course
  2. That’s right, unaided!
  3. It’s more specific than googling
  4. Does searching out the website of your source count as cyberstalking or accreditation?
  5. Yes, there are more than two!
  6. Seriously those guys like know stuff about things!
  7. I HAD to. I’m sorry
  8. though I expect there will be expensive online Oxfords too

Ten for 2013

I haven’t blogged for a good while, but my son is now 4 months 1 and the daily chaos is starting to settle down. I can spend time outside of the work->food->sleep routine again and not worry that I won’t get enough of the latter element!

2013 has rolled around and I think that gives me a chance to stop and ponder of what it might bring. I’ve always set resolutions that were huge and in many ways unnatainable at the time but this year i’ve decided to learn from something I started doing in 2012. Tweeting. It told me that small is sometimes enough. In 140 characters or slightly more 2 then here’s Ten for 2013.

#1 Tweet More

The simplest one. Re-engage with twitter. It makes things a bit more interesting and a lot more social. i’ve enjoyed my holiday from it with miniboy but I’d like to keep going.

#2 Blog Again

Something not so simple. Blogging is tough and time consuming for me. I edit, re-edit and delete more than I jot-down and publish. It’s a wonderful outlet though and you can learn so much. I love writing too despite always wanting to do it better and faster.

 #3 JFDI

I spend plenty of time waiting and wondering if I should do something in a variety of contexts. Should I go to that event? Should I send this email? Should I take time away from a priority? Well this year i’m aiming to JFDI 3.

#4 Be Positive

Apparently people who are positive achieve more. I read it on a blog so it must be true! Regardless of the truth of the statement I find that vigorously positive enthusiasts drag me to want to do things even if they can’t be done. Far more than notoriously negative narn’eds 4 do. So 😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂 🙂 🙂 😀 is going to be me.

#5 Stay Awake

It’s easy to coast if you don’t try not to. The rail is smoother than the dirt track and it’s easy to climb onto the train and enjoy the views, maybe have a tea and a biscuit, grab a slow read, have some quiet chats and not worry your going to crash. BUT NOTHING HAPPENS ON THE TRAIN AND YOU MIGHT FALL ASLEEP. You can’t make great air either. This is a metaphor for doing better at that.

#6 Love

The simplest of simples. There is an emotion in me and I have a family to use it on. So i’d like to just make sure that I keep making sure they know about it.

#7 Eat Better

In 2012 I spent roughly £218 on takeaway food at an average of 2.5 per month 5! I spent about the same eating out, I probably spent less eating McDonalds 6. I think it would be good to take a year to just eat a little better than that.

#8 Take the Time

It’s easy to miss a moment if your too busy looking for one. Sometimes just taking the time to enjoy what you are doing, with those you are doing it with is enough to make those moments without even needing to look for them. More 1:1s and Family Activities with Wife, Baby, Daughter. More time taken to stop and talk to people. 7

#9 Keep Coding

I can sort of code but I don’t do enough of it to remember how. I let some gray matter dwindle over the last few years and through things like codecademy and ebooks i’m going to make 2013 a year to ressurect those nerve connections. I only need the basics!

#10 Draw Stuff

I love sketching out ideas but I always write notes instead. This year i’m going to do more sketching and maybe adopt some of these ideas for using it for note taking too. Visual images work so much better than bullets.

So these are my Simple Ten. I don’t think any of them require me to do anything I don’t want to be doing but think i should or achieve anything i’m unlikely to be able to. They just require me to do more of the easy little things I enjoy.

Happy 2013!!! 😀


  1. He’s wonderful btw
  2. well we can’t completely stick to the rules can we 😀
  3. The F is for “frelling” kids
  4. my wife’s term I assure you
  5. Hey I shared it though!
  6. But only because it’s cheaper
  7. largely under Resolution #1: Tweet More


Following in the trend of some other wonderful #weeklyblogclubbers this week I thought i’d pick up on the sixsongsof.me Guardian challenge. @janetedavis has already kicked off with some great posts and I also noticed Kate Bentham too. There have been others 1 since this post started to be drafted too.

Pick six songs which fit a set of six questions which define you 2

What was the first song you ever bought?

Honestly, I was really late to my own music collection. I was age 14/15 before I bought a CD. I think it was “Do You Know What I Mean” by Oasis. I had been given songs and albums before then but this one I remember I went out and bought as a single. I wanted to be cool and Oasis was cool 3. I’d never really bought music so i found it hard to know what I wanted back then – In some ways I let my tastes be set by my friends.

I met my maker, I made him cry
And on my shoulder he asked me why
His people won’t fly through the storm

What song takes you back to your childhood?

Which bit! It was a long time. Early on my parents music tastes seem to take me back a fair bit – my Dad would constantly play music at me. He seemed to think that telling me how great something was, meant i’d appreciate it 4. It had the opposite effect. I think – music needs to find you on it’s own sometimes. The Beatles jumps right in my head. “Yellow Submarine”, “When i’m 64.” Kate Bush from my mum. Haunted by that voice.

Then there’s anything that relates to a cartoon sometimes age 5 sometimes age 8. I was a TV kid. I watched anything I could.  For some reason the “There are no cat’s in america song’ is floating around in there. Then the lion king soundtrack comes in at age 11? takes me right back to a head which was filled with simpler worries and focused on play. I can remember most of the soundtrack. BY HEART.

Hakuna Matata, What a wonderful phrase
Hakuna Matata, Aint no passing phase.
It means no worries for the rest of your days

Not so much childhood but mid teens. 16-17 or so. The entire album of “Dizzy up the Girl” by Goo Goo Dolls.  A weird mix of memories here but definitely teen angst, a lot of late nights in internet chat rooms, writing a journal and terrible poetry. The album almost has a silent second track in the background featuring the tap tap tap of a keyboard in a dark, monitor-lit room. “Acoustic #3” please.

And I wonder where these dreams go
When the world gets in your way
What’s the point in all this screaming
No one’s listening anyway

What is your perfect love song?

Speaking of Goo Goo Dolls. I was big into “Iris” as a love song but it’s nowhere near perfect. Now though… hmmm I love “Toothpaste Kisses” by the Macabees. It’s the music. It helps that we chose it for our wedding and i remember standing in the memorial chamber and it was echoing up into the roof. Really magical.

Cradle me, I’ll cradle you
I’ll win your heart with a woop-a-woo
Pullin’ shapes just for your eyes.

I feel I need to split this in two. There’s love as in magic and YAY and that’s the ones above. But there’s love which is quieter and little bit of heartache. For me that’s 3am by Matchbox Twenty. Probably up in the top 10 songs ever for me.

She says “baby”
“It’s 3 am I must be lonely”
When she says baby
Well I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes
That the rain’s gonna wash away what I believe in

And by far the one that rattles the heart everytime is Goodbye my Lover, James Blunt. IT HURTS! RAW!

What song would you want at your funeral?

Do I have to die? I suppose we all do sometime. I’m not sure if there’s a song for this.

If I want one. I want a song which says I lived. I also want a song which says I’m free. The dichotomy that rules me I suppose. I sometimes feel i’m living in a cage and some would say that death is a kind of release. I don’t know. I almost died once 5 and I know that I wanted not to.  Is there a song which captures all of that? Ever since I read “Speaker for the Dead” in the Ender’s Game sequence I always loved the idea that you could try to express the ‘truth’ of someone. Perhaps I want a song that does that for me. That’s why this one is so tricky.

You know what. I love “Beethoven’s Silence” – Ernesto Cortazar. Piano Music at my funeral. Totally 6.

Which song will always get you dancing?

“I Gotta Feelin” by the Black Eyed Peas. My daughter was born to this song. i’d never picked up on it at the time but my wife remembered it clear as day and when she told me it was like a memory was rebuilt in my head. It’s just so fun a song.

I gotta feeling. That tonight’s gonna be a good night.

One last song that makes you, you

“Disease” Matchbox Twenty – it just sinks right into me. In a way it’s about a girl, but for me it’s not about a girl at all. Or should I say the girl is a metaphor for the world around me.

I’ve got a disease deep inside me baby
makes me feel uneasy
I can’t live without you
Tell me what am I supposed to do about it?
Keep your distance from me
Don’t pay no attention to me
I got a disease

At the same time I find “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty rather fitting too – i’ve always been a bit off centre. Not eccentric or wild by any means. I dream of ninjas and dwarves and live a little in a world of my own.

All day staring at the ceiling
Making friends with shadows on my wall
All night hearing voices telling me
That I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good for something

Don’t we all? 😀


  1. watch weeklyblogclub for part 2’s!
  2. I’ve tried to link to youtube versions of all the songs but I haven’t watched them through so hopefully they all match the song!
  3. and buying their CD made me cool
  4. it didn’t
  5. or it felt so much like I would. It’s hard to tell what would have happened
  6. This would never work. Piano music seems to sit well in my head but outside in other people’s  heads. They’d think. ‘que?’

Eventalyser: Social Media Event Capture

“How important are small written ephemera such as notes, especially now that we create an almost incalculable number of them on digital services such as Twitter? Some of the most critical collections of primary sources are ephemera that someone luckily saved for the future.” Dan Cohen The New Everyday, June 2010.”


“Mum, what did people think of social media in local government in 2012?”

A while ago, I attended #localgovcampNW. There was a lot of good stuff but I already can’t remember most of it. Now if you Google the hashtag you will find bits and pieces of what happened. A few videos 1, a blog or two, and even a cookie monster.

But it isn’t all of it. It’s the bits that are being remembered 2 and some of it will definitely already be forgotten.

I really think there is a need to save the memory of events and the artifacts generated by them. Even if they appear transitory and ephemeral now there’s nothing to say they wont ever be more than that.

I’m hoping someone will create an eventalyser – something that is a bit of a collation tool for info generated at events which communicate largely via new and social media. I’ve wanted to see something on this for ages and a recent post by Mark Braggins/Sasha Taylor tracking the highlights and lowlights of #lgovsm – really hit home with the mention of need to ‘save’ tweeted content (Unconferences: Good Bad or Ugly) . So It just needs to happen 3. I see two very obvious use cases for this: conferences and hashtag events and both. Here’s a badly drawn concept 4:

Badly drawn collation concept
Badly drawn collation concept – what’s there to bring this altogether

The ultimate aim is to capture all content tweeted, linked to or streamed into a single configurable event portal. Maybe using templates or a bit like the drag and drop style ‘widget’ interface that WordPress uses. Essentially so that the focus is on organisation than editing in the first place.

It would ideally do the majority of this without input using fairly smart content recognition. (Ever noticed how Pinterest links to source sites automatically and also recognises things like the creator or storefront on sites like Etsy – and automatically links to them?)

Following the design of the archive it would then allow some curation of the content e.g. removing spurious tweets or hashtagbombers.

It seems like if tools like Storify, Paper.li can do some of this already we’re surely only a short step away from doing all of it? I think it would make a great hackday/hackweekend project. Long term of course it would also archive the content before bitrot sets in.

“What does this mean for the archiving of digital ephemera such as status updates—those little, seemingly worthless online notes? It means we should continue to expend the majority of resources on those documents and people of most likely future interest, but not to the exclusion of objects and figures that currently seem unimportant 5.” – Dan Cohen The New Everyday, June 2010.


  1. Im in that one!
  2. for now
  3. If only it was that simple
  4. which looked much better as a dribbly ball point pen sketch I assure you
  5. And no, I am not assuming govCampers are #unimportant. Before you think so 🙂

Social Media, Employment and Avatar Rights

A little bit of idle wandering around social media, employment and individual rights…

Broadcast Locked? Adaptation of Original work by Nevit Dilmen (Silhouette_Mr_Pipo.svg)
Broadcast Locked?

Here’s a completely imaginary scenario 1:

“It’s Tuesday 14th September 2014 and BOB is typing what appears to be a harmless message on Facebook. It appears to be that because really that is what it is. However, there’s a misinterpretation by a colleague on Facebook who happens to think it’s an inappropriate commentary and decides to act by sending a copy of the text to work. The next day BOB is summoned into the office and given a stern reprimand.”

Is there anything wrong with that? Depending where you stand it’s a complete invasion of BOBs personal world, or a perfectly valid employee management activity. Personal Privacy vs Public Relations perhaps. Is BOBs personal content in part owned by his employer? Did his colleague have the right to replicate the content? Perhaps BOB should be more careful? What is the boundary between work and home when it comes to social media?

I have an issue with this somewhere. I won’t go as far as to say that i’ve come to a set view on what it is yet. There’s a kaleidoscope of issues and the lines blur easily with a simple twist of the looking glass. I could just be waiting for the right picture to emerge even if i’m uncomfortable with the current one.

I still find myself feeling though, that somehow we’re idly wandering into very dangerous territory. As social media platforms become mainstream and employers expect staff to fit their personal and professional presences into an acceptable bubble could we be losing something valuable? Even when ‘off the clock’ are we subject to certain expectations? The danger is that it would be easy for the balance to tip in favor of employers than employees.

Some might say that this is the same problem as “Who owns your public image? 2” – the higher our profiles in a community the more caution we expect people to take in what they do. Celebrities and Politicians fall in and out of grace on the smallest of moral dissapointments. I think in many ways though this is subtly different – my Facebook feed is selective. I have chosen who is on there, I use privacy settings, I’m mostly careful about what I say 3 but that doesn’t mean i’ll never say anything by mistake.

My twitter feed is certainly public 4 but at the same time it relies on people looking for it in some way. Passively watching streams or otherwise. The danger here is that we create a situation where it is impossible to create a truly personal profile without hiding behind a pseudonym and making no connections to people you don’t trust entirely. Essentially meaning our digital selves become what we do rather than who we are.

So are we heading into a double life requirement? I don’t think that works well on platforms like twitter or facebook. I might be JP_Worker#3 5 and JonoPatterson 6. Having one of those doesn’t make the other any less me and any less open to accountability Similiarly I could have two Facebook profiles but to me it misses the entire point of being an individual and there are some good reasons not to (<– also an excellent example of the dangers of being too open). I don’t think it affords any more protection to the personal me to have a work me too.

This all vaguely reminds me of an interesting idea by Raph Koster, a game designer who saw problems beggining to emerge in the world of gaming, social worlds and avatar based interactions. ‘Who owns your Avatar?’ If your avatar acquires virtual property who owns that? If you leave the game are you leaving behind an asset which should be protected or just a digital file that should be deleted? Raph’s draft essay (with help from numerous individuals) was the idea of avatar rights, a set of protections given to owners of avatars which would protect them and their digital assets from complete abuse.

User digital person via Wikimedia Commons
Who owns the digital you?

For me the question is a little similiar “who owns your digital self?” I’m not entirely convinced I know whether its me, or whether its me so long as others are happy with the content… could there be a need here for social media rights? A set of protections to prevent a drastic response to flippant remarks?

I want to add finally that I am not talking about blatant critical, obscene, defamatory, racist remarks here. I can see how these damage an employer by association 7. I’m talking about the grey ones in the middle – simple differences of opinion, interpretation and the right to freedom of expression. Where do you draw the lines?


  1. IT REALLY IS! JUST BE EXTRA DOUBLY CLEAR: THIS ISNT BASED ON A REAL EVENT! I thought in the spirit of this post I should avoid ambiguity at the get go 🙂
  2. Not that I have one to own
  3. or at least how I say it ^^
  4. and often neglected
  5. who would never say anything in disagreement with his employer
  6. who might disagree with his employer personally but not let that interfere with work
  7. though generally I think that these are unacceptable regardless of employment

Changing Luggage

A snippet post as I’m on holiday this week!:

  • 12 years ago, my ‘travel essentials’ included 1 book, 1-2 CDs, a film-based camera, a map, and a journal. My wheelchair went about 2 miles 1.
  • 5 years ago, my ‘travel essentials’ included 1 book, 1 mp3 player, 1 digital camera, 1 sat-nav, 1 mobile phone and 1 nintendo 2. My wheelchair went about 5 miles.
  • Today, my ‘travel essentials’ include 1 smartphone, 1 Kindle and I’ve not lost the ability to do any of the above! 3 I’ve never been stopped by my wheelchair yet.

I really love living in a world with a very fast technological cycle.

The Many Chairs of JonoPatterson


  1. Actual distances are best guesses
  2. I stopped writing in a journal by then, sadly
  3. And i’ve started a blog instead 😀

Micropost: Asset Based Staff Development

Ok, so i’m vaguely in the middle of writing up a post about Asset Based Community Development. It’s going in a strange direction so i’m not completely convinced it will work yet! Anyway, I was in the middle of writing about ABCD when I had this idea, and going back to my earlier blog post about lightning talks I thought hmmm, this should be a micropost.

Essentially it goes like this

Asset Based Community Development is a community building process where you take a neighbourhood, you actually talk to the people 1 who live there about the things they care about, the things they can do, the things they care enough about to actually use their skills to change. You build up this knowledge into an asset map of the strengths and opportunities within a community. That asset map then forms a basis for connecting skills, people and assets together to do more than they can do on their own.

The aim is to build up agency and connectivity within the community to a point where people actively start joining together to be more than they can be as individuals.

Build more connections

This is a great idea. There are hundreds of examples of this approach improving and strengthening communities. These range from neighbours sharing gardens right through to communities forming youth groups to actively reduce anti social behaviour.

Which led me to thinking about whether ABCD can be used within different kinds of communities, for different purposes perhaps. Could it be used within workplaces? What if I just substitute the word community with organisation? or with staff 2?

Enter Asset Based Staff Development

So with a simple twist of the words we have a slightly different concept. Nothing revolutionary, just a reframed vision.

So now, when it comes to organisational development, we stop thinking about the needs of the organisation, the skills gaps and resource deficiencies. We start thinking about the strengths of the organisation, the key skills and the joint working opportunities.

How do we do this? We ask Staff some simple questions:

  • What do you care about in our organisation? (What do you love, What are you concerned about? What are you interested in?)
  • Which of those things do you care about enough, enjoy enough 3 to actively do more of?
  • What skills could you provide to help do more of them?
  • What do you need to help you achieve this?

And to be fair these are examples – the aim is to start from a point of appreciative rather than critical inquiry.

We use this to build a map of the opportunities – groups of shared interests who want to join up, projects needing multiple, complementary skills, ideas without a team to lift them off the ground.

And finally – we just make those connections happen. Maybe its through innovation days, maybe its through free afternoons or maybe it’s just a chat over coffee 4.

I think the result of this could be a stronger, more resilient, more connected workforce. A workforce which builds on the strengths it already has, rather than tries to infill the weaknesses.

Its an easy process to twist

I suppose we don’t have to stop at staff. You could perhaps widen it to circles of any interest, though for me staff communities (especially in local gov) have a lot in common with neighbourhood communities. The range of interests and focuses is very diverse, the skills and strengths of individuals are often hidden behind the day job, and most of all, it’s very easy not to connect with the people outside your service.

What do you think? Could it work? Could we build better organisations just by mapping our assets before our deficiencies? The answer, for me, is yes 5 – and in some ways I have already experienced it via things like unconferences and ABCD workshops.



  1. Really! Talking to people! How Novel!
  2. the plural
  3. yes there will always be the unfun work to do too
  4. tea in my case, or it just isn’t on!
  5. yes yes yes yes damn yes