strong ideas, loosely held

Blogging is one way I make sense of the world. I have now written over 3,300 posts on various topics. My ways of seeing the world have changed over the years and blogging has helped to keep my thoughts in a state of perpetual beta — strong ideas, loosely held, in order to deal with constant change while still getting things done. Today we are in great need of sensemaking between citizens as we deal with the complexities of a pandemic, an economic recession, and increasing violence in many parts of the world.


One effect of the network era, and its pervasive digital connections, is that networks are replacing or subverting more traditional hierarchies of our institutions and markets. Three aspects of this effect are — 1) access to almost unlimited information, 2) the ability for almost anyone to self-publish, and 3) limitless opportunities for “ridiculously easy group-forming” as Seb Paquet described the effects of social media.

The desire to relate is what drives people to support global social movements on one hand, and to take shelter in tribal identity politics on the other. In politics, social media extend participation but also make information manipulation by small motivated groups much easier. Understanding this deep desire to relate to others should be foremost in mind in understanding human dynamics.

We will not have organizational transformation, or political reformation, without people feeling like they belong. To counter Tribal populism, we also need to appeal to emotions and our feelings of relatedness. The same goes for education and learning. (more…)

art, reality, and truth

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“We have art so that we shall not die of reality.” —Friedrich Nietzsche, via @AnthonyMartinFaria

@dsearls“Future epitaph: ‘I used to be talent. Now I’m just content’.”

@MelissaPierce“This quote from the movie ‘The Two Popes’ is pretty much everything: ‘Truth may be vital, but without love, it is unbearable.’ Would that I take this gem to heart for even a third of my interactions.”

@malia_adil“These days on Social Media, everybody is engaged either hosting, boasting, or posting. Wonder, who is listening?”

@JasonFried“Remember, remote work is not office work remotely. It’s a different way to work. Mostly asynchronous, long stretches of uninterrupted time, fewer meetings (meetings are a last resort), and fewer hours with more impact per hour.” (more…)

prebunking the conspiracy theorists

In confronting the post-truth machines I looked at different types of fake news and what could be done to counter them —  Propaganda, Disinformation, Clickbait, and Conspiracy Theories. I mentioned that the researcher danah boyd defines agnotology as — “the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance”. Today, as ever, many forces are at play promoting agnotology — from governments, to corporations, to social movements. This ignorance in our society can easily lead to conspiracy theories.

In the conspiracy theory handbook (March 2020) the authors from several universities explain in detail what conspiracy theory is and what can be done about it. It’s a short read read and a handy reference. The prime differentiation is between actual conspiracy (e.g. VW diesel emission tests) and imagined conspiracy (e.g. JFK assassination). One comes with a perspective of healthy skepticism while the other from one of overriding suspicion. The authors say that conspiracy theories are popular because they address feelings of powerlessness, provide a way to explain unlikely events, help cope with threats, and dispute mainstream politics which can help make some minority movements feel special. (more…)

a trusted space for learning

In 2006 I proposed that we should develop an educational system  of small schools, loosely joined:

  • With access to the Internet a one-room school would have to reach out to the rest of the world and not be wrapped in the confines of the industrial school. Schools would have to seek out partnerships and not be isolated islands.
  • Communities of learning online could be developed to link learners in several schools and even in different countries.
  • No teacher would be able to ‘master’ the subject matter, so teachers would become facilitators of learning, which is what they profess to do anyway .
  • Small schools would be integrated into the community and there would be a sense of ownership by the community, not the education system.
  • Most children would be able to walk to school, therefore eliminating buses, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and encouraging exercise.
  • Children and parents could have more than one school to choose from.
  • Sales of industrial school buildings could be used as financial capital for the transition.


jupiter aligns with mars

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

@qcroll“The century of the speaker is over: Once, we did everything for the speaker’s convenience, gathering in one place. Now, we do everything for the community, because speakers, sponsors, and the audience trust us to gather the best people.”

@bhargreaves“Everyone crowing about a permanent remote future where they live in Boise but earn their current NYC/SF salaries is gonna be real pissed when they discover they’ll live in Boise but earn Manila/Bucharest salaries.”

@yaneerbaryam“Bureaucracies exist in order to say no. They wouldn’t be needed if they said yes. So the people who rise to the top, and the culture, are an automatic ‘We don’t do that’.”

@delphina777“propaganda does not need to be persuasive, only pervasive — its secondary purpose is to convince — its primary purpose is to exhaust” (more…)

zoom is not the problem — meetings are

When all you have is Zoom, every work-from-home office looks like an endless face-to-face video call. I have been working remotely since 2003. Video calls have been a regular part of my work and I have used pretty well every platform available. In the early days my favourite platform was Marratech, until they were bought by Google and some of the technology created Hangouts. But video communication was only part of my work.

Asynchronous communication — threaded discussions, blogs, and wikis — was always part of my work conversations. Writely — which became Google Docs — was a great tool and helped our distributed team, from British Columbia to New Brunswick, write the specifications for the Pan-Canadian Online Learning Portal. This was the first time that all the Ministers of Education had agreed to do something together. But CMEC cancelled the project after a vendor was selected. It would be interesting to see how the current pandemic would have been handled by schools, with a national online learning resource already in place and with over 10 years of experience. But I digress. Let’s just say that technology is not usually the issue in the workplace — it’s how the technology is used. (more…)

the reality of missing out

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the Worldwide Web he made it free and open source, so others could build upon it. In the early days it was quite open with individuals sharing knowledge through blogging and collectively building knowledge with wikis, the largest being Wikipedia. But as more people joined the web two things happened.

Commercial forces found ways to monetize their audiences. They built attractive ways for people to get online as easily as possible. They even hired psychologists and anthropologists to study human behaviour and then devised ways to manipulate it. They aggregated this data and used it to sell targeted advertising. All the giants on the internet use targeted advertising — Amazon, Google, and especially Facebook.

Meanwhile, many people found blogs to be too much work, and wikis to be confusing. They wanted convenience so that they could connect with their grandchildren. Facebook was the solution. It was convenient and allowed easy sharing and connections. But convenience, like a principle, has a cost. (more…)


Every fortnight — now known as a decade — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”Peter Drucker

But in our knowledge economy, says Drucker, “if you haven’t learned how to learn, you’ll have a hard time. Knowing how to learn is partly curiosity. But it’s also a discipline.”

@mathemagenic“When experts open up and become part of sense-making networks, their expertise travels to become part of informed choices of non-experts. It’s a better option than pushing packaged solutions via authority lines assuming that people are not able to understand complex matters.” (more…)

beyond civil society, governments, and markets

Binary thinking is an easy sell. It appeals to our emotions which we developed as children. Binary thinking blinds us. It’s not black and white, or right and wrong, or even Left and Right. Human society is many shades along various spectra. But often politicians and others tell us it’s a simple, binary choice — ”You’re either with us, or with the terrorists.’‘ —President George W. Bush (2001)

Thinking of our society as only Markets and Government (Institutions) ignores the influence and potential of families, communities, and the volunteer sector.  For instance, Public-Private Partnerships are not inclusive. They ignore the Civil sector.

“Every day I’m told our society, our system, has two sectors: the public sector and the private sector — the former referring to government and its agencies, the latter to the market system and its businesses. I’m also told that one sector or the other, or both in partnership, say as a public-private hybrid, offers the best way to deal with this or that domestic policy problem.

Our politicians, policymakers, and media commentators constantly rely on this public-private framework when they talk about fixing America’s health, education, childcare, housing, welfare, infrastructure, energy, communications, and environmental issues. Some proposals call for broader government programs; others urge more privatization; a few recommend improving public-private collaboration.” —David Ronfeldt

Incorporating the third sector, civil society, into decision making is becoming evident in our connected world, especially with an ongoing pandemic. (more…)

time to change the world

Universities may be going online temporarily, or perhaps permanently, but the curriculum does not seem to have changed. What should be taught at university is how to learn once out of university. In 2013, Jane Hart and I worked with Bangor University in Wales to incorporate personal knowledge mastery into the Psychology curriculum.

We started by working with the faculty:

  • Strategies for using social tools for personal and professional learning
  • Understanding the seek > sense > share framework
  • Personal network mapping
  • Where and how to build your professional network