there is a crack in everything

As the pandemic emerged in 2020 I sought credible information and advice first from institutions and authorities and later from a network of expertise — encouraged to do-your-own-research — in view of growing misinformation and disinformation, even from authorities like the CDC and WHO. I am not the only person to turn to a networked solution — Twitter pandemic list — for my sensemaking in this pandemic.

The People’s CDC is a networked alternative source of credible information that bypasses the corridors of institutional power. (more…)

mastodon musings

On the last Friday of each month I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds. Since 2009 many of these finds have come via Twitter. Given the current state of chaos on that platform — whither Twitter — more of my finds will be coming from Mastodon, as all are today. Tomorrow, 31 December, marks 15 years on Twitter for me, and it may be my last anniversary.

“One of my favorite Engelbart sayings might relate to the ‘Mastodon is too confusing to learn’ claim. Paraphrasing, he said that if ease of use was the ultimate aim for a tool, the bicycle would never have evolved beyond the tricycle.”@HRheingold

“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.” @DuneQuotes [a bot] (more…)

start planting

Social learning is a regular topic on this blog and I gave a presentation on the power of social learning earlier this year. The following quotes show how learning from and with each other is a critical part of human and societal development.

“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” —Albert Bandura 1977

“As part of a social network, we transcend ourselves, for good or ill, and become a part of something much larger. We are connected.” —Katherine Giuffre 2010 (more…)

platform collapse

The robber barons of the 21st century are the platform owners. They have combined the power of network effects with a 20th century corporate capitalist, winner-takes-all approach. Amazon is choking the book publishing industry, Google is dominating advertising, and telecommunications companies are using their control of the pipes to directly compete with service providers. Now Uber is going after the taxi and car rental industries, getting to be larger than established rental car brands, with none of the overhead. All of these companies provide initially good services to customers. But over time their monopolistic tendencies kill competition and the entire ecosystem of innovation.

I wrote the above paragraph is 2014, not mentioning Twitter, which until recently was where journalists, institutions, and governments shared what was happening and fed the algorithms that showed what was trending. In some ways Twitter was the pulse of the world and helped drive the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, and many other causes. It was the main source of visitors to this blog when I deleted Google Analytics several years ago, as a way to ignore vanity metrics. (more…)

learning & innovating networks

Innovation comes from the edge, almost never from the centre, I wrote in moving to the edges (2014). But I noted that our inherent —  human — need for a sense of belonging can keep us in the centre and detract us from thinking critically and questioning the assumptions of our existing structures. While some organizations may have the software networks in place for knowledge sharing to and from the edges, most do not give time and space for deep thinking, as I mentioned in my last post on meaningful work. This certainly slows any insights from the edges getting to the centre.

Deep thinking often comes from those periods when we are not distracted by our to-do lists or running from meeting to meeting. Adam Kahane remarked that, “almost everything I’ve learned is through the disciplined examination of my experience” as well as an approach of, looking for disconfirming data, as Charles Darwin did”. This is not possible with a continuously overflowing inbox. My colleague and friend Jay Cross understood this.

“Visualize the workflow of a physical job: produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce.

Now visualize the workflow of a creative knowledge worker: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, flash of brilliance, nothing, nothing, nothing.”
Jay Cross

‘Nothing’ time is for deep thinking. (more…)

GPT-3 through a glass darkly

I have been using the tetrad (four sides) derived from Marshall & Eric McLuhan’s Laws of Media for several decades. I find it useful for examining emerging technologies, beyond the hype. For example, according to Derrick de Kerckhove, Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology at the University of Toronto, the Laws of Media state that every new medium (or technology in the broader sense of the word):

• extends a human property (the car extends the foot);

• obsolesces the previous medium by turning it into a sport or an form of art (the automobile turns horses and carriages into sports);

• retrieves a much older medium that was obsolesced before (the automobile brings back the shining armour of the chevalier);

• flips or reverses its properties into the opposite effect when pushed to its limits (the automobile, when there are too many of them, create traffic jams, that is total paralysis)

Here is what that tetrad could look like. (more…)

meaningful work

Kourish Dini says that, “Mastery and meaningful work develop from guided play.” This is pretty well the direction behind my personal knowledge mastery framework and the notion of ‘half-baked ideas‘.

“There is an error in our focus on productivity. I may even be labeled as a productivity talking-head. I’ve more than likely made the error myself.

The error is that the focus should not be on productivity so much as it is on mastery.

Mastery is a process, a development over time for something you care about. That could be your family or that could be a craft.

This way, you choose the thing or things you are mastering and the remainder of your world is around supporting those. You don’t need to master everything, so much as take them to a point of being strong enough to support what you find meaningful.

Secondly, I strongly believe that mastery absolutely requires play.” —Being Productive 2022-12-05


“the future cracked open”

Race Bannon sees AI (or really machine learning) changing many jobs, such as technical writing, in the near future.

“I believe within 5-10 years much of technical documentation will be written by AI. Certainly, the basic procedural stuff (Step 1, Step 2, and so on) will be written by AI, but even the contextual stuff surrounding the procedural documentation (use cases, examples, and implementation tips) will be written by AI eventually too.” —The Future of Technical Writing

In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson thinks that creativity will not save our jobs from AI.

We may be in a “golden age” of AI, as many have claimed. But we are also in a golden age of grifters and Potemkin inventions and aphoristic nincompoops posing as techno-oracles. The dawn of generative AI that I envision will not necessarily come to pass. So far, this technology hasn’t replaced any journalists, or created any best-selling books or video games, or designed some sparkling-water advertisement, much less invented a horrible new form of cancer. But you don’t need a wild imagination to see that the future cracked open by these technologies is full of awful and awesome possibilities. —The Atlantic 2022-12-01


exit left authoritarian father figure

John Batelle notes that many of the thousands of people who were fired from or have left Twitter after Musk’s purchase of the company were women. He provides links to the profiles of 17 of these women.

“Twitter was probably the most intentionally open, accommodating, and thoughtful work culture the Valley has ever produced at scale. And it’s not a coincidence that a healthy percentage of Twitter’s senior executives were women. Nor is it a coincidence that nearly all of them have left. I started keeping a list of the extraordinary women I worked with over the past few years who have recently departed the company. And just for posterity, and perhaps for you all to add to, I present it here. Think about all the men cheering on Elon’s ‘Hardcore’ philosophy, who agree with him that the people below, and countless others, are unnecessary. Read through these names, click on their profiles, and ponder the roles they played in the nuanced ecosystem Twitter once was.” —John Batelle 2022-11-28


PKM in perpetual beta

I recently wrote — from platforms to covenants — that I firmly believe that open protocols connecting small pieces loosely joined is a better framework than any privately owned social media platform. Twitter was just too darned easy for many years. I am now connecting more on Mastodon though I have not mastered all of its functions. Mastodon is an open protocol and anyone can put up a server and connect to what is called the ‘fediverse’, a federated network of hosts using the protocol.

During the past decade I have used Twitter as an aid to learn about social networks on my personal knowledge mastery online workshops. As Twitter continues to not only crash and burn but reinstate accounts that promote hatred, I no longer wish to advocate for any use of the platform. I am still there, for now, as I am connected to so many friends and colleagues. (more…)