Week notes #194

This week I’ve been doing this week:

Security and privacy in video conferencing 

I’ve been getting into the detail settings of video conferencing tools to understand how to make them more secure. The two products I’ve been focusing on are Microsoft Teams and Zoom. In some ways they are the opposites of each other with Teams being more security focus and less about ease of use, and Zoom being more about ease of use and less about security. The commonalities are that with both products (along with ever other product in the world) people sign-up and start using them without really understanding how they work and configuring them to meet their use case. For Teams it’s often the organisation’s IT team that set it up how they think they should without finding out how users want to use it. And for Zoom it’s often the end user who uses it without reviewing the default settings. Zoom has over two hundred settings, many of which affect the security of calls, but I bet very few users know that. I might write ‘A charities guide to setting up Zoom securely’ blog post if I get time over the next week.

I’ve also come to realise that in addition to security, privacy is a far more complicated issue to deal with on video conferencing platforms. Every service I’ve looked at, most of which are aimed at business-to-business customers have built-in assumptions that everyone on the call will want to know who everyone else on the call is. They expect that all users should reveal their identity along with a certain amount of personal information (name, email address, phone number, an image of themselves). None of the platforms are built privacy-first with settings to allow different user types to be able to protect or reveal their personal information in different circumstances. In my line of work this is a problem and leads to us having to think of ways around how the video conferencing platforms are built to ensure individual’s privacy.

Minimum viability

I’ve been writing some more discussion posts for future charity. There are lots of interesting questions about the history and nature of charity in its current paradigm that can help us to question what the charity of the future might look like. I wish I had more time to write more in-depth and thoughtful pieces but in the spirit of minimum viability and iterating later I think it’s more important to get a sufficient number of discussion posts live and get out with something bigger.

The bigger things I need to work on are understanding charity law and the regulations around creating a charity so that I can figure out how to launch a minimum viable charity, and then speaking to some people to get feedback on the concept of future.charity and hopefully recruiting them.

Impromptu half-marathon

On Friday evening I decided to go for a jog. I don’t normally run very much, although I’d really like to do more. This jog turned into a 13 mile cross-country run in the dark. It felt so good to be in such a simple situation. There was just me and the path ahead. All I had to do was keep running.

This week I’ve been studying reading:

Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics

I haven’t really been studying this week, but I have been reading some interesting papers that have become the background of some future.charity discussion posts. Sir Steven Bubb’s History of Charity and Florence Gaub’s Global Trends to 2030: Challenges and choice for Europe. Both gave me lots to think about, one around where our current paradigm for charity came from, and the other about what issues charities might be dealing with in the not too distant future.

This week I’ve been thinking about:

What does it mean to be strategic?

I watched Sophie Dennis’ presentation for FutureSync20 about what is strategy, why it matters, and what good and bad strategy looks like. The witticism of “Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics” (which was derived from a longer and more useful statement by a United States Marine Corps General) fits nicely with Sophie’s talk. She talks about strategy not being madlibs buzz words nonsense but being a “coherent plan to achieve a goal that will lead to significant positive change”, which seems very logistics focused to me.

It’s interesting to me because I’ve recently written a product strategy for a piece of work and want to run Spohie’s tests on it, and because some of the work I’ve been doing has required me to get into the details of how a product works, which in the eyes of many people is the opposite to being strategic. I don’t subscribe to the duality of strategy/details but that doesn’t mean others agree. It’s an interesting one…

Theory of change and direction setting as you go

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about future.charity and whether setting it up as a minimum viable charity (rather than just a thought experiment) is the right way to go. I keep coming back to the theory of change I wrote which says about coming up with a workable model that has been developed through experiments. I don’t think this can be achieved by thought experiments alone. And if the only way to register as a charity is to be a traditional type of charity then we’ll have to think about whether having the status of a charity is more important than being able to challenge the current paradigm or whether being a different type of organisation might give us more flexibility.

This week people on Twitter were talking about:

After the honeymoon

Laura Martin tweeted about the Phases of Disaster graph that shows how people react to dramatic situations (such as global pandemics). It’s interesting to think that we are only in the heroic/honeymoon phase and that we have a long way to go before we’ve dealt with the emotions of it all. It seems that we have too much focus on the end of lockdown and the expectation that everything will be back to normal shortly afterwards.

I’ve bin everywhere, man

Harry Trimble tweeted about his project to catalogue all the wheelbins in the UK. Twenty years this would have been an art project, with the blurring of art and life, but nowadays it’s an ‘open-data tech side hustle’. Things move on, but not that much.

Digital service for charities

Chris Thorpe tweeted about Service Recipes for Charities, a project to make it easier/possible for charities to share and use each other’s work. It’s a fantastic idea, very charity-as-a-platform, whereby if a charity wants to implement a digital service, such as providing support through online video conferencing, they can take an established practice with all the learnings from other charities, and create that service far more quickly and with less of a need to learn for themselves.