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.

The next stage of my minimalistic and nomadic life

The next stage of my minimalist and nomadic life started. Not so much #vanlife as #carlife.

The aim is for it to increase my productivity by giving me more focus and time to work, and to improve my health by helping me go swimming every day, and going to Kung Fu, going climbing and going mountainboarding once a week.

I need to think about ways of improving the quality of my sleep but I think better weather over the next few months will help. I also have a few things to learn about insulation and condensation, but if I can live this way over the next year then living in a van should be really easy.

Although I call this project #vanlife as in the medium/long term I expect to be living in a van, the project is actually more about designing my lifestyle in a more considered way so it better meets my needs rather than just accepting a way of life because it’s the norm.