Recently, I joined the Mentor Team at Mozilla. Each team has their own, slightly different way of working – even if we all tend to use the same tools. Something I really enjoyed during my inaugural Mentor Team call was the period of ‘silent etherpadding’ that it began with.
For the uninitiated:
Etherpad… is a web-based collaborative real-time editor, allowing authors to simultaneously edit a text document, and see all of the participants’ edits in real-time, with the ability to display each author’s text in their own color. There is also a chat box in the sidebar to allow meta communication. (Wikipedia)
At Mozilla we usually use an etherpad as an agenda for our calls. We use one for the Web Literacy Standard community calls, for example. I’ve found using etherpads usually makes for collaborative, democratic experiences.
I like writing. I like writing and commenting in real time even more. But I only ever do it for work-related things. So I had this idea last night:
How it works:
Every week there’s a new main etherpad where people sign in (being anonymous/pseudoanonymous is fine)
Each person creates a new etherpad and adds the link next to their name on the main weekly etherpad.
Everyone writes for an hour. Or more. Or less.
During that hour people can stop by other people’s pads and comment, chat, etc.(anonymously/pseudoanonymously if you want)
Only one rule: NO DELETING (of your own or other people’s stuff)
This is just a heads-up that I’ve started (another!) new blog at discours.es. I’m using it for commenting on stuff in the news that I think’s important. At the moment that’s mainly NSA/privacy/security related stuff but will change over time.
While I could have extended my use of the tumblr-powered Thought Shrapnel blog for comments, I don’t like the way tumblr is a silo. And its SEO is terrible. Instead, for discours.es I’m using postach.io, a really neat system that uses your Evernote account as a content store. That means I can easily blog offline – and I’ve always got a copy of what I write locally on my machine.
I did consider Posthaven (aiming to replicate the functionality of the now-defunct Posterous) but decided against it. I like the free-at-point-of-access-and-pay-to-upgrade model. 😉
* If you haven’t found a Google Reader replacement (or don’t currently use a feed reader) may I recommend Feedly?
Update: I’ve heard back from 90% of the people who donated to #LettingGrow, all of whom have said they don’t want me to ask Cancer Research to return their donations. Given how overwhelming the response has been, and the difficulty of getting a refund for people, I’ll only now do so if asked specifically. I hope that’s OK!
It is with huge regret that I announce that I cannot continue with my #LettingGrow campaign. I had fully intended to not cut my hair or beard for the entirety of 2013 but, for reasons personal and professional, I shaved my hair and beard last night.
I am looking into ways to refund everyone who so kindly donated to Cancer Research UK. However, JustGiving makes it extremely difficult to do so:
Online Giving – we run and maintain a website that processes donations on behalf of the charities featured on it. For this service, and the support we provide to them and their supporters, charities pay us a transaction fee of up to 5% on the donation. Because we promptly pay donations to charities, we regret that we can only refund a donation if the charity expressly requests it, and they can pay us back. Please get in touch with the charity first.
During the period of growing my hair and beard, I learned many things about myself and others, not least that:
people are much more likely to strike up random conversations
international travel is a lot more difficult when you look significantly different from your passport
I should have talked through my plans my nearest and dearest before taking the plunge
A sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who donated. I pledge to refund everyone who donated, even if it means it coming out of my own money.
I’ve been reading Paul Stamatiou’s blog since he was an undergraduate. After a couple of startups he’s now working for Twitter. Yesterday, he posted this about his new-found minimalism:
I sold or tossed a ton of stuff I didn’t need, use or wear. I stopped wearing all those free startup shirts I gathered over the years and moved on to button-ups. I use Laundry Locker to deal with ironing them so I don’t spend my Sundays doing this. I buy toothpaste, shampoo and the like in bulk on Amazon so I don’t have to remember to make monthly errands. I moved to a slimmer wallet and carry less stuff with me everywhere. I cancelled unnecessary monthly billed services so there’s less to think about when I see my statements.
This is great. This is something I’ve tried to do. This is something to which I aspire. But the trouble is that it requires money to do this. And I’m guessing Stammy’s new found outlook on life is helped by the fact he’s probably not earning peanuts at Twitter.
People don’t need money to be happy, certainly not. But there’s a level of financial security that allows you to say “screw you” to the world. It’s easy to forget just how soul-crushing money worries can be. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest causes of strife in relationships.
The trouble with minimalism, as others have pointed out, isn’t the message but the messenger. It’s rich, successful (mainly white) males saying “I don’t need all of this stuff to be happy!”. That’s great, but we should be mindful that people not so well-off sometimes need stuff as a just-in-case. They haven’t got the financial resources to just go and buy whatever they need there and then.
I completely accept Leo Babauta’s point about minimalism being a constant critique/mindset rather than a lifestyle. It’s just that two seem to be rather conflated at this point in time. For rich people a spartan aesthetic means iPhones and white furniture. For less well-off people minimalism looks very much like poverty.
The following things didn’t really warrant a blog post in their own right, but I thought they were worth sharing somewhere on this blog.
1. Nesta ‘One Day Digital’ video
I ran a Mozilla Webmaker workshop in Edinburgh on Easter Saturday as part of Nesta’s One Day Digital series of events. The video they produced afterwards is below and I make a brief appearance at around 1:00. Check out that beard!
I presented at SETT, the Swedish equivalent of BETT, last week. My presentation, along with one from PELeCON the week before can be found below. Unfortunately, the animated GIFs are not so animated on Slideshare, so click here if you want to see them in action!
This morning I woke to the tragic news that Chris Allan had been found dead. I wasn’t sure whether to write anything here. I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate. But given that news of his death reduced me to tears, I thought I’d better.
Despite only living 40 miles or so away from one another, I only met Chris in person a few times – interacting with him more regularly via Twitter and email. He was a great guy: enthusiastic, brimming with ideas and, as an ICT teacher, keen to try out new technologies with his students. In fact, he’d been working on integrating Open Badges within the curriculum at his school.
Chris came along with his son to a #MozParty Newcastle event I organised last year. I like this photo of them together as I believe that’s how he should be remembered – as someone who went out of his way for the young people in his life. In fact, I can still remember a couple of years before that when he came round to my house to buy a computer from me for his son. My heart goes out to the family Chris leaves behind. What a loss.
[I’ve redacted the last section to keep this focused on Chris]