Weeknotes #229

This week I did:

Wrapping up for Christmas

Or not. It doesn’t feel like finishing any of the things we’re working on has aligned with the end of the year. We’re still in the middle of lots of things and that’s ok, that’s how things work out sometimes.

Digital nomad newsletter

I sent the first edition of my digital nomad newsletter, titled ‘The end is nigh‘ (with a nod to Red Dwarf) to all three of my subscribers. It’s taken me a while to figure what I want to do with it but I landed on it not being about remote work or the nonsense of the digital nomad lifestyle, and instead being a more thoughtful discovery on ideas about art, life, the outsider, minimalist, stoicism, essentialism.

Exams. Done

I did the Research Methods in Business exam and Innovation Management and Policy exam. Six modules done, two modules and dissertation to do.

Getting organised

I’ve tried the simple kanban of To do, Doing, Done and I always found that lots of things stayed in Doing because I was technically still working on them even if I hadn’t progressed them recently, and I didn’t want to lose them in the To Do list. This made it increasingly harder to use the Doing list to focus. So I’m trying a time-focused approach. My columns are ‘Today’, ‘This week’, ‘Future’ (which is effectively To do) and ‘Past’ (which is mostly Done but also some things that had a date that I didn’t do. I’ve added lost of the tasks I want to do next year for all of my projects.

Step by step

Had a good chat about some of the product advisor work I’ve been doing. Its interesting professional development for me and is giving me some context for formalising some of my product thinking, not least that every product development framework and method is context specific, and that the best way to build a product is to build the process for building the product as you build it.

Digital tools

My digital tools list is now at 600. As a list of tools it seems to have limited value, and that value isn’t going to increase with the number of tools on the list, but how the info used on the list might have some value. Two of my ideas so far are around market analysis (if you’re going to build a video product you could quickly check out all the other video products) and building digital business models by connecting up the tools (a product for creating Twitter threads to promote the product you built in a nocode product which uses a subscription collection product to take payments, and so on).


I thought about:

Linear innovation processes

There is a paradox in how we present innovation as a linear process whilst knowing that it better resembles spaghetti. Obviously it’s human and management nature to simplify things into what can be easily explained and will fit on a PowerPoint slide, but its interesting to think about how to get past those out-of-date mental models.

Goal setting

Having organised my project tasks for next year, it made me think about different approaches to goal setting:

I’ve no idea which approach works best in what context but I bet they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Most Valuable Person

The most valuable person in an organisation used to be the one with the most power. Soon it will be the one with the most knowledge. Knowledge is value (and it doesn’t have to have power).


And I read:

Wicked problems

In 1973, design theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber introduced the term “wicked problem” in order to draw attention to the complexities and challenges of addressing planning and social policy problems“. I’d heard the term ‘wicked problem’ before but never knew it had a source like this and so much thinking behind it. It adds to some of my thinking about how charities choose causes and solve (or not) social problems.

Southern Co-op uses facial recognition

Branches of Co-op in the south of England have been using real-time facial recognition cameras to scan shoppers entering stores.” Interesting tech ethics to consider when an organisation with an ethical ethos introduces technology that others raise ethical concerns about.

The structure and dynamics of the Third Sector in England and Wales

The Third Sector Trends Study has now used data from the Charity Commission register, the Third Sector Trends Study and NCVO Civil Society Almanac to get a much clearer picture about the situation of the local Third Sector across England and Wales.” The report frames the Civic Space as existing between the private sector. the state and private space. In my thinking it’s the private space that exists in the middle of the three spaces created by the different modes of organising people. I also found the power law distribution of charity size and income quite interesting, although not surprising. I wonder how the age of the charity would map against its size and income. There are so many interesting things in the report.


And some people tweeted:

Working From Anywhere

Michael Wilkinson tweeted “Great weekend reading from Harvard on the Work From Anywhere (WFA) future. There are many benefits and challenges that the feature discusses which I thought I’d share here.” The thread has lots of really interesting thoughts about flexible working. The point I would add is about the long term benefits that flexible working has in knowledge transfer between organisations and the rest of society. By making the boundaries the organisation puts up (from Friedman’s statement that a firm’s responsibility is only to increase profits) between it and the rest of the world, more permeable, the way knowledge and information flows will fundamentally change.

Digital knowledge base

Paul Taylor tweeted, “A “digital repository to hold all of your organisational knowledge, that will allow unprecedented access to deep insights with a few keyboard taps” is a fantasy that only exists in the minds of people selling you a Silver Bullet“. Knowledge can’t (yet) be codified, it can only be translated into information to be codified (and then stored digitally) and so much is lost in that process. Turning information and/or knowledge into intellectual assets is a really difficult problem.

Small number of bold and unique bets

Jack Altman tweeted, “Most great companies are built by taking a small number of bold and unique bets, and then being as by-the-book / best-practices as possible on everything else.” The strategy is delivery. Execution wins.

Weeknotes #227

This week I did:

Planning for mobilisation

Now that we’re underway with development I’m shifting my focus to how we’re gong to be mobilising. One of the interesting things I’ve been working on this week is risk assessments. How we assess risks, understand our assumptions and biases about risk, maintain an up-to-date understanding of the risks that are constantly changing is an interesting challenge. Handling risk effectively is a balancing game.

Solving the tacit knowledge problem with AI

I had an interesting conversation with Matt Ballantine about “Microsoft patent filings describe a system for deriving and predicting ‘overall quality scores’ for meetings using data such as body language, facial expressions, room temperature, time of day, and number of people in the meeting.” Most of the outrage on Twitter about this patent was around it being used as surveillance technology to allow managers to monitor employees. I don’t disagree with this, but I think Microsoft has a very different end game in mind.

Lot of organisations are already using Teams for all of their communications. That means every word that is said in a video meeting or typed in a chat message is available for analysis. If Microsoft developed a means for doing a similar thing in real-life meetings then there would be even more communication being codified into information. But why not just record meetings? Because to understand the meaning of the information you need to understand the interaction.

I think Microsoft is trying to solve the tacit knowledge problem: to codify knowledge, wisdom, intuition and make it transferable. Michael Polanyi thought that tacit knowledge could not be codified, but that wouldn’t stop you if your hypothesis was that codifying the tacit knowledge held by employees and turning it into a competitive advantage was good for business.

Prioritising side-projects

I’ve got lots of projects on the go and even more ideas for projects that I haven’t started yet. So how do should I choose which one to work on? Some of my Tweeps had some suggestions so I put them all into a blog post.

Digital nomad

I’ve started a newsletter about my experiences of being a digital nomad, remote working, minimalism and leading an intentional life. I not quite sure what I’m going to do with it other than record my roadtrip and see what I learn about this way of life.

500 Digital Tools: a mega thread on Twitter

I set myself the target of getting my digital tools list to 500 by the end of the year and said I would put them all into a mega thread on Twitter. I wasn’t expecting to be an entire day’s work but at least I got it done. I’d really like to create make business model recipes as part of buildbetter.systems like these examples from Whit.

I read some stuff:

Innovation as learning

I read lots about innovation as part of my revision for my upcoming exam. There is so much interesting thinking trapped in pdf’s and held behind institutional logins. I’d love to have the time to write about each paper I read and bring those thoughts out.

Charities and politics

Like everyone else on Charity Twitter, I read Baroness Stowell’s article saying that charities shouldn’t get involved in party politics and culture wars. Lots of people argued that charities should and/or have no choice but to be involved in politics, but I wonder whether that was really the point of the article (which was very poorly written and not backed-up). I think it was more likely written with the purpose of inflaming the charity sector. To make a statement to effect that charities shouldn’t get involved in ‘culture wars’, by which we can assume she means the current events and movements around anti-racism, but doing so in a way that draws them into the culture war by writing an article in a national newspaper, seems suspicious to me. So, the question is, how should we respond to trolling?

Building your own website is cool again

This article about people getting into setting up their own websites is pretty interesting. It mentions some of the tools people are using at the moment and the interesting point around how personal websites compare to social media, which of course are different solutions to different problems, one being about ownership and longevity and the other being about immediacy and reach.

And thought about:

Learning business model

I’ve been trying to figure out a flywheel business model for my knowledge building. It includes how information is inputted into the system through newsletters, books, studying, etc., how it is processed into knowledge, correlated with other knowledge to form new ideas, and codified to be outputted. And then how the outputs feed back in as inputs to be correlated with any new inputs and drive the flywheel. My hope is that if I can design it to work hypothetically I can then optimise my learning practice to test and improve the model.

Connected to this but at a different level is the idea of the knowledge society, that knowledge (or probably more accurately ‘information’ as the aspects of knowledge that can be codified and transferred) is more valuable than physical goods in a post-industrial society.

Power structures and information structures

I’ve been thinking for a while now about how power and information follow very different structures within organisations. Power is typically organised hierarchically whilst information more usually follows a network structure. If we follow the assumption that innovation requires the creation of new knowledge, that how organisations allow information to flow (which I think fits with Christensen’s point that when orgs are small they are more resource-focused and maintain knowledge in individuals but as they become larger that knowledge becomes expressed by the culture).

In a way, this organisation-level thinking fits in between the individual knowledge flywheel, where the the unit of analysis is the individual, and the knowledge society thinking as that is information flow at the largest scale. So the question is, are information models fractal, in that the same pattern exists at every level, or is it not that simple?

Know what you bring

I’ve been thinking a bit about personal branding. I have an idea for a chatbot that helps indie makers identify their personal brand so I’ve been doing a bit of research.

  • In my personal branding (whatever that means, I still not sure) I think about what value I bring to any given situation I’m trying to have an impact in. It can take a while to figure it out, and something it feels more or less clear to me, but it’s what I mean by the phrase ‘know what you bring’.
  • Wes Kao said, “If you cringe at the idea of personal branding, reframe it to yourself as personal credibility. Personal credibility is about being good at your craft & keeping your promises.”
  • This OSINT framework is pretty cool. It’s almost like reverse personal branding. It’s intended as a guide for how to find out open-source intelligence about someone, but if you turn it around it becomes a guide of where to control your brand image.
  • People are trying to become brands. Brands are trying to become people.

Some people tweeted

Build in public

KP tweeted, “Building in public helps you put in reps and build muscles on:

  • shipping products
  • staying accountable to goals
  • handling PR & media
  • handling a multiple of inputs (often from customers or potential customers)
  • the art of storytelling
  • the thick skin to be a founder”

Building in public is the compounding network effects of the Maker community. It allows people to become known for something, to learn from others as they build, and create a sense of abdunance

But building isn’t enough

Toby Allen tweeted, “Want to validate your idea?

  1. Setup a Gumroad Pre-order page
  2. Add a wicked description and mockups
  3. Clearly state it will only get built if you pass X number of pre-orders
  4. Survey all users that pre-purchase.

Build it or Kill it!”

I completely agree about validating ideas by putting them in front of people, but perpetuating the idea that building is enough to get validation of an idea is unhelpful. Maybe this needs a step 0 of ‘Build an audience’ and a step 3.5 of ‘Promote the hell out of it’. Maybe the maker community focuses too much on building because building is the easy bit.

The 9 biggest lessons

Will Myddelton tweeted, “I’ve learned so much about doing product work in the last two years. These are the 9 biggest lessons I’m taking away.

  1. Riskiest assumption experiments are my north star
  2. Off-the-shelf software is cheap and crazy powerful
  3. Whole-team planning creates shared direction
  4. You’re gonna need a bigger goal
  5. User research with real signups is my jam
  6. People respond best to real people
  7. Written culture makes things resilient
  8. The runway won’t take care of itself
  9. Working with an ADHDer has changed me
  10. I made (more) mistakes”

All good things to learn.

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…

John C Havens on the Tech Humanist podcast

https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cudGhldGVjaGh1bWFuaXN0LmNvbS9mZWVkLw&ep=14&episode=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cudGhldGVjaGh1bWFuaXN0LmNvbS8_cD0xMTI

John C. Havens is Executive Director of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. He is also executive director of the Council on Extended Intelligence (CXI). He previously served as an EVP at a top-ten global PR firm, where he counseled clients like Gillette, HP, and Merck on emerging and social media issues. John has authored the books Heartificial Intelligence and Hacking Happiness and has been a contributing writer for Mashable, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. He has been quoted on issues relating to technology, business, and well being by USA Today, Fast Company, BBC News, Mashable, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Forbes, INC, PR Week, and Advertising Age.
John was also a professional actor in New York City for over 15 years, appearing in principal roles on Broadway, television, and film.