Weeknotes #221

This week I did:

Higher fidelity supersedes lower fidelity

It has been a week of prototyping, user testing, and getting into the details of how processes will work, what API’s need to do, what content do we need, and how we use messaging to communicate expectations and responsibilities. Understanding young people’s expectations as they use our products is really important for how we communicate (in the holistic sense) there and our responsibilities to create a safe community.

Free School Meals

I had an idea about using tax relief claims from working at home as donations to charities tackling child poverty so I set up a page on my website and sent some tweets. I’m not a fundraiser or digital communications expert, and don’t have much of a following on Twitter, but it felt really uncomfortable putting myself out there with something like this. I usually get to hid behind websites. I don’t know how charity fundraisers do it every day.

Buddy Chat

I had a buddy chat with Bobi from Be More Digital. It’s the first time I’ve done anything like it but it was good fun. I think of it as part of the stigmergy for achieving the digital transformation of the charity sector, which is clearly such a big and complex thing that it can’t be achieved using a strategy, which would require centralised coordination.

What Nokia got wrong

I’ve been working on my assignment for the Innovation Management and Policy module of my Masters. It’s an analysis of how Nokia went from the market leader in the mobile phone industry to losing it all to Apple, Google, Samsung, etc. It’s not part of my assignment but I think the game Snake had a lot to do with the adoption and dominance of Nokia phones.

200 Digital Tools

I added the 200th digital tool to my list this week. There are still lots more I want to add, and I’ve been thinking about what to do with the list as it grows. One of my ideas is about joining up different products into different business model workflows. I have no idea what this would look like yet other than a curate shortcut to picking the right tools and products for setting up side-projects and small business ventures.

Visualize Value

I joined the Visualize Value community “of 1,300 builders and makers focused on increasing their value by creating valuable things.” as part of exploring business models. I’m not interested in building a business, I am interested in building business models.


And I read:

Conditions for Collaboration

Conditions for Collaboration - Part 2: the role of shared infrastructure by Nick Stanhope is a call for shared infrastructure and collaborative working. But there is tension between a strategy for such working which says that a single coordinated approach that says 50 digital maturity tools is too many lets pick one, and stigmergy, an approach that doesn’t require a centralised coordinated approach but transmits signals for others to follow and says 50 digital maturity tools allows far greater usage and application. Does what tool you use matter if they all get to where you want to go?

Our Digital Future

Over recent months many of us have been talking a lot about the impact the COVID pandemic has had on the adoption of digital ways of doing things in healthcare. I say adoption rather than transformation because I have a view that we have not, by and large, transformed the way we deliver services or pathways. What we have done at a large scale is adopt ‘digital’ tools to replace physical interventions with virtual ones.” I wholeheartedly agree with Toby’s point of view, and his thoughts around building digital as a core competency in organisations to redesign what those organisations do and how they do it for the modern age.

Edtech’s Answer to Remote Learning Burnout

This in-depth analysis and prediction for the EdTech space from A16Z is really interesting for anyone with anything to do with online education, or ‘education’, as it’s called in the 21st Century.

The Great Reset

I began reading some of the articles from Time’s The Great Reset, a website about “the kind of future we want. TIME partnered with the World Economic Forum to ask leading thinkers to share ideas for how to transform the way we live and work.” There are some really interesting things to think about, including how Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, want to discuss the State of the Digital World and use their fame and influence to encourage people to listen to experts. I think we’ve learned over the past few months with Coronavirus and decades with Climate Change that people don’t listen to experts so it seems there is a need for intermediaries to facilitate the communication.


And thought about:

The Block Web

I wondered a while ago why websites are conceived or and set up to work like old paper documents and how this limits what we can do with the contents of those pages. And now we see products like Notion which are built around the idea of blocks, each of which have their own ID and which are used to build up pages. The future I imagine for these blocks is where they become the default for embedding and referencing content on web pages. An example might be where one website mentions the price of a product on another website, and if that price changes on the original website it is automatically changed on the mentioning website because it linked to the block with the price.

What to do with all the digital litter

How much of the internet digital storage is taken up by google site pages I started and never used, Evernote pages I’ll never look at again, records in databases for websites I forgot I created an account for. What do we do about this increasing digital litter?


And got recorded by Twitter as an impression for:

Newsletter Operating System

Janal tweeted, ” Launching pre-orders for my first info product. This one’s for newsletter writers. Problem: Managing a newsletter is time-consuming. Solution: I’ve created a dashboard that helps save you hours in the curation, writing & growth process” It’s great to see more people launching digital products like this, and it’s interesting to me to think about the business models that are being used. The most difficult part of the models seems to be the marketing and promotion. Producing is easy by comparison. But in the attention economy, getting people to take notice and take action is more of a challenge.

How I attracted 20,000+ visitors on a Notion page in 5 months

Felix Wong tweeted, “I thought VirtualMojito.com is just another silly idea. Now, this has become a project I like to work on every minute.“, which is another curation-as-a-service product using nocode. I find these kinds of side-project business models hugely fascinating.

Ethics of Algorithms

Mariarosaria Taddeo tweeted, “Check out ‘The Ethics of Algorithms: Key Problems and Solutions’ our paper on the ethics of algorithms“, which is on my reading list and, given the impact unethical algorithms are having/will have on our lives, should probably be on everyone’s reading list…

Weeknotes #220

Things I did this week:

Requirements isn’t a document

It has been a very busy week with a new product build kicking off, an existing product being in the design phase with prototypes being created for user interviews next week, and another existing product starting to go into requirements gathering now that we’ve finished the programme design that the product supports. I’ve been using the phrase “Requirements isn’t a document, it’s an understanding” quite a lot.

The last piece of work I did on Friday evening was preparing some copy for discussion with a Safeguarding Consultant on Monday and then testing with young people on Wednesday. These few words will have had so much focus and effort to get them right, but as they are the words that will show young people how to get help if they feel unsafe online or need to raise a safeguarding concern, it’s vital that we get them right.

Digital tools

My Digital Tools list was mentioned in Richard Sved newsletter. I’m now up to about 150 digital tools, and I’ve added it to a bigger page that includes some examples of charities doing digital things and some other useful resources.

Rapid ideation

I joined in with Reply’s Rapid ideation session to help a charity called SLIDE come up with some ideas of how to offer digital services. Although I don’t know much about the project it seems like a great way to get small charities understanding how to approach ‘digital’. And the ideation sessions were a fantastic example of the digital charity community (can you be a community if you don’t know each other?) using their skills and knowledge to help charities.

Charity Hour on ethical web design

I’ve followed a few Charity Hour discussions on Twitter but this was the first that I felt I could contribute to. It was led by ethical web designer and UX consultant, Tamara Sredojevic, and covered a range of topics around what charities can do to improve their websites and digital presence. The best thing about it was the rallying cry for charities to make more use of the ‘digital charity community’ that exists on Twitter. There is all kinds of expertise that charities could make use of if they knew about it.

Connect with experts

My products on Gumroad have had 15 views; 6 from my website, 4 from Twitter and 5 direct, and no sales (which is expected). I haven’t had time to do anything else with them but I did have another idea around the same theme of collating and curating the knowledge of experts for others to learn from. It would involve a newsletter where each email is about a Twitter thread from some internet business expert along with some reflection.

Innovation research

My lectures this week were about corporate competencies for innovation and research design. The topics are interesting, the lectures are painful (universities really are behind the curve in online education), and the reading is long. I’ve also started thinking about my dissertation which I think will be about innovation models and processes in the charity sector.


Things I thought about:

All charities are on a digital journey

“All charities are on a digital journey”. I read this in the Catalyst newsletter and felt like it gave my brain a little slap. It’s the ‘all’. All charities are on a digital journey, even those that don’t know it yet, even those that haven’t started yet. All of them. There is no such thing as a charity that isn’t on a digital journey. A charity cannot exist in the twenty-first century and not be affected by digital. That is a sobering thought.

Decision-making

I’ve been thinking about how to slice the prerequisites for decision-making, which (for the purposes of this) I think are how much information you have about the decision and what the consequences of the decision might be, which gives us:

  • If you don’t have all the information you need but the decision is reversible, make it.
  • If you don’t have all the information you need and the decision is irreversible, get more info.
  • If you have all the information you need and the decision is reversible, make it.
  • If you have all the information you need and the decision is irreversible, make it.

Basically, have a bias towards making decisions and taking action.

Coronavirus Tech Handbook

I was looking through the Coronavirus Tech Handbook again and found an empty page about the Digital Transformation of Charities. It seems like such a shame for the page to be empty given the size and scope of digital transformation charities are faced with, but it also occurred to me that it’s probably not the first place a charity would look for that kind of support and guidance. So that empty page exists only as an empty testament to another idea that someone had, started, and which never went anywhere. I have so many of those myself.

If side-projects lead to startups, what leads to side-projects?

I read in Michael Novotny’s newsletter on side-projects, which made me think about what gets people into starting their own little projects (of all sorts, not just tech) and led to an interesting discussion on Twitter. f I had time I’d write up a blog post about side-projects and online education coming together to breakdown learning and economic value creation into even smaller chunks.


Things I read:

First Principles for learning

I created and read through some websites about First Principles for learning, and how motivation is one of the most important first principles. This is interesting to me because some of the research we are basing our product and programme design around at work is that motivation is the biggest barrier to learning, progression and achievement. Obviously, low motivation has multiple complex causes, but if you can’t affect those causes how do you make sure you accentuate the things that lower the barriers?

Mindsets vs. Personas

I read through a list of websites about personas and/vs mindsets. I came to the conclusion that to understand a customer/user group we need personas, mindsets, and intents.

Innovation and social enterprise activity in third sector organisations

Innovation and social enterprise activity in third sector organisations, by Celine Chew and Fergus Lyon is from 2012 and “examines the different sources of innovation amongst third sector organisations that are involved in social enterprise activity… Social enterprise activity can also create a space for innovation in terms of positioning services for new users/funders, and can reflect a changing paradigm of delivering services.”. I found the implicit connection between innovation and commercialisation quite interesting, as if innovation should be focused on making money (which I’m not against but don;t agree with).

So much knowledge

I read some of Toby Rogers’ digital garden and blog. It’s interesting to see someone going through some similar thinking to myself around managing ideas (and starting a newsletter, and being an INTJ, and reading lots). I think these things are very individual journeys, and lots of people are figuring out their own ways of being as knowledge workers in an information society. Sometimes just the thought of how much there is to learn even within a narrow field such as product innovation feels overwhelming. How did the human race generate so much knowledge?


Tweets people sent:

Async by default

Chris Herd tweeted, “I’ve spoken to around 1,000 companies over the last 6 months about their plans for remote work going forward” and went on to share the things he’s learned about organisation’s approach to remote work including how many are reducing their office space, hiring remote to widen the talent pool, and changing the measures of output.

Simple rules led to coordinated complex behaviours

Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer at Horizons NHS tweeted “It’s hard to run a big organisation top down, so we end up with many policies/procedures. What if instead, we created a set of “simple rules” that everyone agrees to stick to & interprets in their own way?” Helen links to Timpsons as an example of an organisation that takes this approach. I think as we better understand complexity and how it emerges from autonomous agents following simple rules (like the murmuration of sparrows) we’ll see it tried out in management thinking and organisational design. I think ‘complexity’ is going to be the defining idea behind so many things in society over the next hundred years as we start to figure what it means to live in such a hyper-connected world.

Doing good

Rhodri Davies tweeted in reply to a question about who gets to define “doing good” as more organisations become purpose-led and more tech-for-good projects lay claim to what might have previously been the space of charities. “The really interesting question IMHO is what it means for role of charities. Think it wld be dangerous for them to claim sole ownership of “doing good”- rather they shld champion models of defining it that empower people/ communities & look to challenge “purpose charlatanism”.” I’ve written before about charities as modes of organising people in the civic space to provide a centralising function for groups and communities, so the idea of those modes could also contain ways of facilitating the people in involved in the work in defining ‘good’ is really fascinating to me.

Weeknotes #219

This week I did:

Uncertainty to certainty

It’s been a really productive week at work. My focus has been on trying to encourage discussions and force decisions to make uncertain things certain. It’s meant asking some awkward questions like, “if you had to choose between those two things you said were both priorities, which would you pick?”, but feels like it’s drawing out some principles which we’re using to create models and frameworks that guide decisions. And so we’re getting close to the point of defining the scope of work for the developers to get on with. It makes me think about Basecamp’s hill chart concept as one that visualises how uncertain or certain a particular thing is. I keep looking for other metaphors and ways of communicating how much more thinking needs to be done to get a thing to the point of definition where it can be communicated clearly in writing or images or maps and so is ready to roll down the other side of the hill.

Swam in sea

I went to the beach and swam in the sea. In October. In the rain. It felt amazing. It didn’t feel cold at all. If I lived closer to the sea I’d do it every day. It’s probably one of my highlights of the year.

Back to studying

Term started this week so I’ve been reading for the ‘Innovation Policy and Management’ and ‘Business Research Methods’ modules. Both look like really interesting topics and although the lectures got off to a bumpy start (part of me thinks a major university really should have figured out online education by now and another part of me thinks that it shows just how out of their depth universities are) I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve also started thinking about my dissertation which will probably be about understanding the innovation models used in the charity sector.

Micro business models

I’ve been thinking about micro-business models; very small, easily testable implementations of what could be a full scale business model. Making them really small makes them easier to understand and articulate and the two I’ve done this week are around creating shortcuts for people that they pay a small amount for to have access to something they can leverage for large benefit to themselves. The micro-business model I’m thinking of includes: Idea, Premise, Hook, Production, Distribution.

The first one is: Create Twitter lists → Sell lists on Gumroad → Get people instantly connected to over a hundred experts in a particular field or topic. In this model the payment is one-off but value is ongoing if the customer subscribes to the list and uses it proactively.

The second is: Pay £5 a month (unless than paying £2 a week to do the lottery) to join a distribution list (SMS or Whatsapp) → Every day I’ll listen to the radio for ‘the phrase that pays’ and I’ll send it to you → You enter your phone number on the radio station website to enter the competition → If the radio station calls you, you say the phrase and win a large amount of money. In this model the payment is regular and there are two value points, one where I’m making it easier and cheaper for the customer to enter the competition (that entry costs 25p a day whereas if you enter by texting the radio station it will cost £2 every time you enter), and then there is the possible value of winning £50,000.

The third I’ve been thinking about but haven’t done yet is (because it isn’t very micro, it wuld be a lot of work): Read, interpret and review academic papers on topics such as innovation → Write educative articles that encapsulate the concepts and connections in the paper (something papers don’t do very well themselves, they generally only reference other articles to prove their own points) → Create summary Twitter threads for each article with a link → Use OnlyTweets to collect subscription payments for access to the threads.

Clearly, the thing missing from all of these examples is any kind of growth/marketing model, but I’ll think about that later.


And I read:

Reflections on a systemically-informed service to disrupt criminal exploitation

This is amazing. “The Children’s Society’s work to develop a systemically-informed service to disrupt child criminal exploitation” includes inspiring statements like, “develop hypotheses and a portfolio of experiments to try and change ‘the system’ at the point of arrest” and “The words complicated and complex are often used interchangeably. But systems theorists will tell you they have very different meanings, with huge implications for how you interact with these systems”, and “The words complicated and complex are often used interchangeably. But systems theorists will tell you they have very different meanings, with huge implications for how you interact with these systems”. I’m a big believer in the idea that the only way to make a change in anything is to go deep to understand the systems and structures and go wide to understand the cultural and social impacts. I think The Children’s Society approach to systems-informed thinking places them at the leading edge of positive change in society.

The hinge of history

I’ve been reading about the idea of the Hinge of History, that now is the most influential period of time ever and will have a profound effect on the future of the human race.

Whether now is the exact moment of the hinge of history seems unimportant (well, perhaps not unimportant but unknowable). What is important is our increasing understanding of tipping points, scalability, network effects, exponential growth, and how natural and social systems can experience massive effects from small causes (which differs from our old conception of cause and effect where the effect was within the same order of magnitude as the cause).

The key role of the charity digital lead

I read The Catalysts article looking “at the growing number of charities employing dedicated digital leads – and whether this trend is key to strengthening the sector’s digital capabilities.” It’s interesting to me for two reasons; one it seems based in research not opinion, and two, it explicitly challenges the narrative around ‘digital should be in every part of the charity’, which of course it should, but the challenge is in how to get there. This article calls out the need for people with a digital mindset and and a digital focus in their work. The other narrative I often hear around digital is that the word shouldn’t be used in job titles. That might be appropriate for digitally mature organisations (if there is such a thing) but I think using the ‘D’ word as much as possible is part of bringing about change in organisations to challenge old thinking and ways of doing.


Thought about:

Jumping ahead

Once you have a certain amount of context, some solutions to problems become obvious even if you haven’t yet worked through the logical steps to arrive at that solution. Is it ok to jump ahead or should you trust more in the discipline of the process to prove step-by-step that its the right solution?

Serendipity engine

I’ve been trying out a few different tools for bringing new things into my awareness, what someone I can’t remember called a ‘serendipity engine’. The idea is around get a focused but diverse range of content to keep a steady flow of ideas developing. I use Twitter to follow interesting people, Email newsletters to get medium-form content on subjects I’m interested in, PMAlerts to find things on Twitter (and a few other places) that are outside my usual sphere, and Tentacle to get alerted when certain blogs publish new posts. The problem is that as the number of inputs increases the engine gets clogged and reduces serendipity because I have to make choices about which to read based on previous performance, which is not the way to allow for serendipity.

The axioms of charity x the axioms of digital = ?

What are the axioms (self-evident truths and generally accepted statements) of charity (the concept, the sector and the type of organisation)? The “Definitions and Axioms Relative to Charity, Charitable Institutions, and the Poor’s Laws” from the eighteenth century is interesting but not really what I’m looking for, so here are some ideas of my own: Charities are connected to a single (although sometime quite broad) cause only. Charities select an insurmountable challenge to ensure their continued existence. Charities organise people around the mission.

And what are the axioms of digital? Maybe: Digital technology relies on the internet. Digital mindset utilises the knowledge and thinking about how the internet works. Not sure, needs more work.

I wonder what you’d get if you built up from merging those two sets of axioms so that ‘charity’ and ‘digital’ are so deeply intertwined that we get the first truly digitally-native charity.

Digital charity showcase

I’ve been thinking about whether a showcase website of digital projects, products and services from charities might be useful, is there a problem to solve there, is it something worth spending time on. I started playing with some charity data and API’s from the Charity Commission and CharityBase and I’ve been wondering if I could make my Digital Tools list more charity focused, perhaps almost as some kind of guide. I’m not sure if or how these things are connected but I’ll keep some notes about them in my workspace and see if anything develops in the future.


Some people tweeted:

Ethical design

Tamara tweeted, “Ethical design inspires trust and can be the difference between someone engaging with your mission and forgetting you all together. It involves:

  • Informed consent
  • Voluntary participation
  • Confidentiality
  • Safety
  • Accessibility”

This feels like a really important point. My thinking about ethics is that we can’t adopt fixed positions but we can negotiate and make choices about what is important to us, and it’s that questioning to reach what we think is the right decision that makes something like website design ethical or not. To say, our website is ethical because we did x, y, z, but have not questioned and discussed whether the ethical choices made by someone else and copied as some kind of ‘best practice’, are really right for the audience of the website, isn’t ethical to me. Ethics requires questioning things like ‘how much should we design the UI to direct users to take actions and how much should we give free choice?’.

Why bad news works in fundraising

Jeff Brooks tweeted, “Why bad news works in fundraising“, with a link to his article in which he says, “People are more responsive to problems and enemies than to happy, fully resolved situations. They grasp what you’re saying more easily and quickly. The impression is deeper. The motivation to respond is stronger.” It makes a certain amount intuitive sense, especially given the context of a charity which people are aware of when approached for fundraising. I think I remember seeing examples of charity TV adverts that do have a happy ending, and I wonder if any supporter experience teams design things like email stewardship around taking a supporter on an emotional journey. If supporters only every get bad news from charity, how does that affect their relationship with the charity and their propensity to give?

30 Twitter threads in 30 days

Mario tweeted, “30 Twitter threads in 30 days“. I like these kinds experiments in building an audience. Mario grew his follower count but 2,500, which based on his current count looks like a 50% increase. I wonder how much the number of followers you have on Twitter and how ‘in-common’ they are affects the success of (in fact I’m pretty much sure it does). Mario also mentions in his thread how important things like the topic of the thread are and using quotes. Twitter is an interesting place for audience building but only in conjunction with being known elsewhere, I don’t think it works on it’s own. Of course audience building only works if you have something to build an audience for.

Weeknotes #218

This week I did:

Get value sooner

I redesigned how young people interact digitally with the Trust to focus on giving more value earlier, lots of second chances, safety at every point, and targeted and tailored pathways. It has consumed all my thinking this week and I haven’t has much time for anything else. Apart of figuring out the complex technical architecture of making six products work together to create the experience we want young people to have it has also involved lots of conversations about safeguarding, changing operational models, design principles, etc., etc.

Testing Narakeet

I found Narakeet, a new product that creates videos from PowerPoint presentations and voice overs from the notes. I wrote up a quick review and used it to create a video version of my blog post ‘To improve the charity sector focus on the weak links‘. The idea of creating video versions of blog posts (I intend to do more) is that it hopefully makes the post more accessible and helps me test whether creating videos and having content on YouTube is something I might want to do.

Why do people have personal websites?

I wondered, why do people have personal websites? So I looked through the bios of people I follow on Twitter and picked a few that have personal websites. I wanted to see if people regard their websites as finished brochures or portfolios, or whether they use them as online thinking and writing spaces. Almost all of the sites I looked at were of the finished brochure -type, suggesting that if their owners are writing online they are doing it on platforms that come with an audience.

Lecture time

Lectures start next week so I’ve been setting up my study section in Notion to make note-taking easier. I’ve got two modules this term; Innovation Policy and Management and Research Methods in Management. I’m looking forward to getting back into it.


Read about some stuff:

Reconceptualizing the digital divide

This paper examines the concept of a digital divide by introducing problematic examples of community technology projects and analyzing models of technology access. It argues that the concept provides a poor framework for either analysis or policy, and suggests an alternate concept of technology for social inclusion. It then draws on the historical analogy of literacy to further critique the notion of a divide and to examine the resources necessary to promote access and social inclusion.” Wauchner talks about how the concept of a digital divide and the ‘access to technology’ approach to solving the issue is unhelpful and how a more social inclusion model approach is more likely to be effective. He concludes that, “A framework of technology for social inclusion allows us to re-orient the focus from that of gaps to be overcome by provision of equipment to that of social development to be enhanced through the effective integration of ICT into communities and institutions. This kind of integration can only be achieved by attention to the wide range of physical, digital, human, and social resources that meaningful access to ICT entails.”

It’s kind of an interesting systems thinking point too. The more we think about things in isolation the more isolation we create. The more we think about things inclusively and interconnectedly the more connection we create.

Writing is Networking for Introverts

As an introvert that writes a bit, but doesn’t really have any interest in networking I wonder about this. Bryne’s answer is to outsource the extroversion by becoming micro-famous because it “combines an easier task (be famous to fewer people) with a better outcome (be famous to the right people).” I don’t think I’ve ever experienced any micro-fame, but on the other hand I have no need for networking. If I had more time I’d spend it writing more.

Why Community Belongs at the Center of Today’s Remote Work Strategies

Dion Hinchcliffe writes about how, “In the 30+ years that we’ve all been digitally connected worldwide via the Internet, we have collectively made many profound discoveries about how people can come together through computer networks to create mass shared value“, and how technologies that provide rich social interaction for the highest number of people for the longest period of time, offer the best opportunities for collaboration. This is interesting to me (for obvious reasons given the current situation, but also) as one of the exam questions I answered a few months ago was about the kind of enterprise digitisation that Hinchcliffe is talking about. My conclusion was that “For some businesses the coronavirus lockdown will serve as an accelerator for the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 technologies, new ways of working, and new ways of unlocking value within the organisation”, but thinking from the ‘community’ point of view rather than the ‘technology’ point of view makes things look quite different (similar to Wauchner’s point above; tech is the tool to build the solution, it isn’t the solution).


Thought about some stuff:

What does ‘digital’ mean in the charity sector?

I’m interested in getting an understanding of what digital means in the charity sector. I created a list of 30 websites that come up in search results for ‘digital charity’ and I want to use them to assess and understand the state of digital maturity in the sector. My hypothesis is that if all of the resources and training being offered by these organisations (interestingly no charities show on the first few pages for term) is low on a maturity scale then this is a market indication of the sector.

Tech Ethics research collection

I’ve been working on my collection of research about Tech Ethics. I feel like I haven’t got very far, and I kind of lost direction so I’ve stopped until I figure out what I’m trying to achieve with the Collections on my website.

Notion everything

I was thinking about Notion Everything‘s business model. It’s a templates marketplace (built in WebFlow) for Notion; a collection of digital goods that customers can purchase to import into a digital product and short cut organising their Notions. It’s a bit like how WordPress has a marketplace for theme and plugins but is separate from Notion. Building up an ecosystem of things like this is essential for any digital product to succeed (WebFlow and Roam too). Having people creating training courses, user guides, other added-value offers is all part of increasing adoption, but the insecurity for those people building businesses on top of a digital product is that the company providing the product could choose to build their own version to compete.

Do people use Twitter Lists?

Having spent some time thinking about collating and curating collections of info about a topic (and looking for people on Twitter that are interested in that topic) I thought about how Twitter Lists could be better used. Hashtags work for seeing what’s going on immediately but don’t provide a long lasting solution for what’s going on in an industry, sector. Lists of people might. I wonder if well curated Twitter Lists might be an interesting product.

What do I want to use Twitter for?

I haven’t spent much time on Twitter this week but I have been thinking about it quite a bit. I’ve been thinking ‘What do I want to use it for?’ It seems to me that Twitter is a place for expertise and specialisation. If you want to become ‘the x guy‘ and have something to sell/somewhere else for people who interact with you to go then it works as an acquisition channel, but I also think that people who are well known on Twitter probably become that way by being well known off Twitter. I have no intention of becoming well known but it’s interesting to look at how others use Twitter. Anyway…


And some people tweeted:

Monitoring is the new meeting

Tiago Forte tweeted, “Does anyone know of a curation tool that allows you to monitor certain online sources for mentions of a word?” One of the replies was about PMAlerts which I quickly signed up for a set up alerts for ‘Digital charity’. The results it returns are very comprehensive and show links to things I would never had found otherwise. I have a bit of a hypothesis that the shift away from meet-ups with a small number of true-believers will be replaced by broader, smaller, more diverse engagement, and being able to find those opportunities is what monitoring tools like PMAlerts can provide.

Digital inclusion

YSS tweeted, “As a charity supporting people in the community, we’ve seen during lockdown the enormous impact digital exclusion has on people’s lives – simply being unable to connect with loved ones is just one example.” The YSS website showed as not secure but I went to the Good Things Foundation website and found their ‘Fix the Digital Divide‘ page and the ‘Blueprint for a 100% Digitally Included UK‘ (It’s a pdf, but ya know). It seems routed in the ‘access to technology’ approach and doesn’t go as far as Warschauer in fixing the digital divide through broad social inclusion “enhanced through the effective integration of ICT”, but it’s good that there are people

How leadership has changed during COVID-19

Zoe Amar tweeted, “How has leadership changed during COVID-19? I spoke to charity leaders to find out how they are leading differently, and what this means for the sector.” The article highlights some examples of charity leaders focusing on the well being of their staff, which is of course important at any time. But when the day after we see stories like the Canal & River Trust leadership making decisions to make about twenty people redundant and it reminds us that leaders don’t always deal with things in the right way. I think leadership is always a moral dilemma of choosing between the individual and the organisation. Even in cases like this, where those people may not legally be the responsibility of the organisation, it is the role of leadership to take on that dilemma and behave morally, which should at the very least include treating people with respect.

Reviewing Narakeet

What is Narakeet?

Narakeet turns PowerPoint presentations into videos. The slides become the visuals and the notes are narrated into a voice over.

It has twenty languages, lots of different voices to choose from, subtitles, and background music. Pretty much everything you need to create a video.

My use case

I want to create short instructional videos for guiding people through a process on a charity website. But I can imagine all kinds of other uses.

Using Narakeet for the first time

I started by trying to upload my PowerPoint presentation without signing-up and get a message that my file size is too large so I should sign up for an account.

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/secure.notion-static.com/b6829e6f-5b40-443b-848f-9e80be48790e/narakeet-signup-001.png

I sign up with Google.

Once signed in to my account I get some instructions. I check the file size of my PowerPoint and continue with uploading my file.

As the file is imported this screen shows me the progress.

My PowerPoint had animations (because I wanted to test how Narakeet would deal with them) so I got a warning message to tell me that the animations would be ignored (test successful). I continued.

I have a choice, continue with creating the video with the default settings or edit the settings. I want to see what settings there are so I click ‘Edit the settings’.

The settings allow me to customise the size, language, voice, volume, speed, music and subtitles. I change the voice and switch on the subtitles.

As the PowerPoint file is converted into video this screen keeps me informed about what’s going on. My video is only 50 seconds long so it converts quick quickly.

I watched the video, was happy with it and so downloaded it.

The results

Other than not paying attention about the file size upload limit and trying to upload a file before creating an account, the entire process was simple to follow with good instructions.

Narakeet is a simple idea but so needed for charities, small businesses and individual creators that can’t afford expensive video creation.

Why do people have personal websites?

I wondered, why do people have personal websites? With so many other places to build an online presence, why have a website, and how to use it?

I follow 3700-or-so Twitter accounts. Some of them are companies, but most are people. So I looked through all their profiles to see who had a link to their personal website. I was only interested in the personal websites, domain names their they own, not company websites, LinkedIn profiles, their Substack, etc. So, why do people have personal websites?

Eleanor Mollet

Eleanor’s website is mostly a blog about software development and delivery, and also has links to social media.

Ann Handley

Ann’s website is a marketing site. It promotes her books, speaking, training, and newsletter. The site has a blog but more as a means of framing articles on the site. Perhaps the regular content is through the newsletter.

Amber Kearney

As a product manager, speaker and creator, Amber’s very polished and professional website is definitely a portfolio site. Her blog only has two posts from August 2020,

Martin Kleppmann

Martin’s site is an index of links to his writing on other sites. The last blog post was in January 2020 and the last conference talk in July.

Emma George

Emma’s website promote’s her web design business, showing her portfolio of work and a contact form for potential clients.

Sharon O’Dea

Sharon’s website promotes her consultancy business. It provides links to her speaking, appearances on podcasts and videos, and blog about digital transformation.

Justin Jackson

Justin’s website has links to things he’s working on and his social media accounts but unusually also has lots of articles he’s written.

Anna Gát

Anna’s website is a one-page with some info about her and links to other platforms like Twitter and Medium.

Jeremy Reis

Jeremy’s website is a one-pager with that is mostly directing visitors to another site to sign up for training.

Balaji S. Srinivasan

Balaji’s website is a blog with posts about things he’s interested in and perhaps invests in.

Tamara Sredojevic

Tamara’s website has beautiful animation, pretty gradients of colour, and a custom cursor to help communicate what she does, which is build websites. The site also has links to her social media and a newsletter sign-up.

Tobi Ogunsina

Tobi’s website has an about page, a portfolio with a very full history of work, and a blog with weeknotes.

I wonder if there are two types of websites; finished and regularly updated.

Most the websites I looked would fall into the ‘finished’ group. They serve as portfolios of previous work and lead generation for future business. I wonder if social media, newsletters, and other not-owned platforms are the reason why these sites are not updated more regularly. Or is it just because the owners of these websites view websites as things that can be finished, that they just don’t need to be updated regularly.

The websites that are thought of as digital gardens, places to record and explore ideas, somewhere to publish where we feel we own the content and so own our personal brand, are much more rare.

On personal websites you have to handle production and distribution (if you want anyone to read what you write), whereas if you write on Medium or SubStack or some other platform the distribution is handled for you. So, perhaps what we can see from the websites we looked at is a trend of having a website as a static, enduring, ‘home’ for your ‘personal brand’, something that will show up in search results for your name for those that don’t already follow you on social media, something that communicates your USP and gives potential clients a means to contact you, but not a place to write or regularly update.

Weeknotes #217

This week I:

Barriers as assumptions

I’ve been working through a complex solution design and requirements for joining five systems together to create a more cohesive process for young people joining programmes. I really enjoy figuring out solutions like this, woking through them step-by-step in my head into I hit a barrier and then back-tracking to the last veritably true position before I made an assumption that led to the barrier. That’s how I view barriers, not as technical limitations of the systems but as reflections of inaccurate assumptions. I think applies to lots of things.

Pipeline and platform digital business models

I wrote a blogpost about how pipeline business models are enabled by platform business models which are enabled by the internet, all built on top of each other and forming our ever-changing economic ecosystem.

Should you build a microsite?

I often see some hating on microsites across Twitter, so I wrote a blog post about when they should and shouldn’t be used. Microsites aren’t bad, they’re just misunderstood.

Digital tools

I’ve added 79 digital tools to my workspace. Some of my favourites are Narakeet, a tool that turns PowerPoint slides into narrated videos, Pory, which generates a website from AirTable data, and Daily140 which optimises Twitter into an email.

To improve the charity sector focus on the weak links

Rather than getting the big visible charity sector organisations to improve how they do things like inclusive hiring, the sector would benefit more from helping the people and organisations that don’t even think of themselves as part of the charity sector.


And thought about:

Learning as a criteria for success

I’ve been thinking about how I’m much more interested in learning than I am in building stuff or making money, or other tangible outcome. Some of those entrepreneurial types I see on Twitter seem to measure themselves by how much money they made on Gumroad, but at the moment I don’t feel that focusing on one thing for long enough in order to do that is interesting. So, I wonder what the criteria for successful learning might look like. How do I know I’m learning the stuff I want to learn at a sufficient pace?

Show & tell vs. Record & replay

Providing a show and tell to update stakeholders on progress and gain buy-in for continuing is ineffective. I know it’s considered an important part of modern digital practice, but I don’t like it. Show and tells take a lot of time to prepare, take up a lot of time in total for all the people that attend, and lock useful information away in PowerPoint presentations that no one will be able to find later. They are a high-cost, low-value activities. Better, I think, to create knowledge bases, where organised information compounds and increases in value over time, which stakeholders can access asynchronously when suits them.

How we represent things

When we map out a journey, such as how someone uses a website for example, we tend to make it linear, simplify it, make it work for us. And when we do so, how we represent that journey is a reflection on how true we choose to be to the experience of that person. If we don’t recognise and take on board all the wrong turns, changing decisions, misunderstandings, etc., then we are saying they don;t exist to us. We diminish their experience. I don’t know how to represent the fullness of the human experience but I know ignoring isn’t an option.


And read:

What fifty years of believing Friedman did to us

Kyle Westway wrote a brilliant piece for his blog and newsletter about the influence Milton Freidman’s essay titled “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” has had on our approach to business and the world we live in. The idea that the sole purpose of a business is to make money for its few stakeholders in competition with other businesses who are also trying to make money solely for it’s stakeholders has powered the late twentieth century’s industrialisation that has caused greater inequality in society and massive environmental damage. Replacing it (I say that like it’s happening because it has to, the world economic markets cannot continue to follow Friedman’s brand of Shareholder Capitalism) is the idea of Stakeholder Capitalism, that a business has a responsibility to all of the people and parts of the planet that are affected by it doing business. I wonder if any charities report on a triple bottom line

‘We Blew It.’ Douglas Rushkoff’s Take on the Future of the Web

Douglas Rushkoff is a futurist, author, early cypherpunk and professor of media studies at Queens College. His early writings on the internet paved the way for thinking about the web in revolutionary terms, as a tool to enfranchise and connect the world. He talks about how the internet has been monopolised by a few tech giants and is used in ways that reflect our societies means of participating in our underlying economy. He says that “climate change is the most pressing issue. Unless growth-based economics and corporate capitalism are reversed, there’s no way to stop it.”

Hacking is a Mindset, Not a Skillset

Spydergrrl’s presentation to the Geek Girls on how hacking is a mindset was an very interesting read. The hacker mindset is made up of accepting challenges (using barriers as motivation), getting outside the box (of our usual thinking, being creative), bringing your friends (because we solve problems better when we work together), give it away (sharing information empowers others) and pay it forward (teach others to think like hackers). I was looking for something like this after the idea that leaders (well, in fact everyone) should take more of a hacker approach to problem solving, specifically, if you are going to have to solve the same problem again in the future make sure that the solution you create now can be reused rather than having to start from scratch every time.


And a few people tweeted:

Diverse and inclusive boards

Kim Shutler tweeted a thread on diversity & inclusion on Boards. It’s an interesting read about implicit privilege, elitism and exclusiveness of charity boards. It made me think about our society’s and sector’s approach to governance and what new models of thinking about it our available.

Innovating at the systems level

David Perell tweeted “Innovating at the systems level is much higher leverage than innovating at the tool level, but tools give you an instant rush of happiness.” in response to Tiago’s tweet saying “I will always use whatever is the most mainstream, broadly accessible, user friendly notes app. I have no interest in innovating at the tool level”. The idea of being able to innovate at different levels, and that different levels have more or less leverage is really interesting to me. It kind of fits with my ideas about changing worldviews over centuries and changing practices over a number of years. The short term change feels better because it’s noticeable but the long term change has greater impact.

Action leads to insight

Joe Jenkins tweeted “action leads to insight more often than insight leads to action” from the book Power of Moments. That’s something I can completely get behind. Learn by doing.

To improve the charity sector focus on the weak links

Changing an entire sector is a coordination challenge. How do you get enough people doing the right stuff to make a difference?

Improving the charity sector, either a particular aspect of it, or the entire sector, requires less focus on the high profile charities and well-known people, and instead more focus on the people who aren’t even aware of the charity sector and on the organisations that don’t engage with other organisations in the sector. These are the people and organisations where even small changes can have large impacts.

How strong is the sector?

In 1983, Jack Hirshleifer, an American economist, introduced the concept of ‘weak links’ with the analogy of a low lying island that is protected from flooding through a network of interconnected dikes. Each person on the island decides how strong a dike to build on their land, yet the island will be flooded if the weakest dike breaks (Hirshleifer, 1983). Hirshleifer’s point was that isn’t the average or total contribution of each person that protects the island but the minimum contribution (Gillet et al, 2009).

The charity sector is a weak link environment, just like that island. The strength of the protections it builds for society and the environment against inequalities and destruction are not the average of all the efforts of the sector, they are only as strong as the weakest part of that defense. The world only gets better if it gets better for everyone.

If it were a strong link environment then all beneficiaries would benefit from the success of the biggest and most successful charities, but of course they don’t. The young man in Southampton who needs support to tackle his drug addiction only benefits from the success of those charities that support him.

Because the charity sector lacks any strong coordination mechanisms (Riedl, 2011), and because it’s success in/for society is dependent on the minimum contribution, we can apply the lessons of game theory and what it tells us about weak links to improving the sector. If we accept the charity sector is a weak link environment, then we have to ask, who are the weak links?

Who are these people?

Is membership of the charity sector through self-identification? If you work in HR and identify with the role of a HR professional (the closest circle to the individual) then which sector you work in is almost irrelevant to you, you can work in the charity sector or the hospitality sector. If you identify with working for a particular organisation, or even particular cause, but you don’t self-identify as part of the charity sector because your awareness only doesn’t extend that far, then should you be counted as a member of the charity sector? But if you self-identify with the sector (as I obviously do, writing a blog post about it), then you most definitely consider yourself part of the charity sector.

Concentric circles showing where people identify

I would suggest (counter to perhaps what the diagram looks like it might suggest) that there are far more people who work in the charity sector than those who self-identify as working in the charity sector. All those residential support workers who do amazing work supporting young people with autism. All those finance analysts and gardeners and developers and cleaners. We could (and should if we are being inclusive) consider all of these people as part of the charity sector, even if they don’t themselves.

So, the best way to improve the charity sector, for everyone who is part of it, is to make lots small improvements for the majority, for all those people who don’t take any notice of the sector and all those charities that just get on with providing services for people. This is where the minimum contribution occurs. This is where the strengthening is most needed. This is where we should focus our efforts for improving the sector. Making improvements for the small minority of visible people and organisations might look like it’s improving things, but if it doesn’t improve things for everyone, then is it really an improvement?

Watch the video version of this blog post.


Sources

Joris Gillet, Edward Cartwright, Mark Van Vugt. 2009. Leadership in a Weak-Link Game. School of Economics Discussion Papers. University of Kent.

Jack Hirshleifer. 1983. From weakest-link to best-shot: The voluntary provision of public goods. Public Choice, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague.

Arno Riedl, Ingrid M.T. Rohde, Martin Strobel. March, 2011. Efficient coordination in weakest-link games. Department of Economics, Maastricht University.

Dun Han and Xiang Li. 2019. How the weak and strong links affect the evolution of prisonerʼs dilemma game. New Journal of Physics.

Joel E. Cohen. 1998. Cooperation and self-interest: Pareto-inefficiency of Nash equilibria in finite random games. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.