Issue #211: blockchain ideology, emoji miscommunication, building awesome communities
Doug Belshaw's Thought Shrapnel
Link lucky dip


Following on from last week’s tip to creating a personal brand, 9Sharp’s Founder and CEO, Safwan Hak explains how to use your passion to create a truly authentic brand.

Read the full article here

To find out more about building your brand, visit



I've been plagued with migraines recently, including a particularly bad one last Monday. You can read more about that in my weeknote and a post I wrote specifically about migraines in the 'this week I wrote' section below.

Despite that, it's been a pretty great week, participating in a hack day, helping a friend of mine, and working both from London and my home in Northumberland. It's actually been sunny! ðŸŒž

What are you working on at the moment? I'd be particularly interested in hearing from anyone using productivity tools in their organisation that go beyond the usual Apple / Google / Microsoft silos.

Doug Belshaw
Doug Belshaw is neither a tinker, a tailor, nor a candlestick-maker. Some people say he acts his age, not his shoe size.


This week I wrote:

TIDE podcast

Episode 46: Maltese Credentials

Today In Digital Education is a regular podcast hosted by Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw, focusing on education, technology, and everything in between.

This week, Doug and Dai talk about elephants in the classroom, Dai’s experiences in Malta, Liberia outsourcing their education system, what Doug learned while at Mozilla, the cult of the attention web, what constitutes a credential, how to find your most productive hours, and more!

Tweet of the week

I wonder if IKEA gets all its design ideas from Hieronymus Bosch's depictions of hell.

Links of the week

The Ideology of the Blockchain (for Education)

The Ideology of the Blockchain (for Education)

It would be remiss of me, after last week sharing Part 1 of Audrey Watters' writing on blockchain technologies in education, not to also share Part 2. As ever, there's many quotable sections from Audrey's article:

Technologies, particularly the new computer and communications technologies of the twentieth century onward, help reinforce dominant ideology in powerful ways, but these technologies also have their own ideological underpinnings as well, ones that serve in turn to justify and reinforce the cultural and economic changes that society is currently undergoing. Think “Sharing Economy,” for example.

Audrey goes on to say that she uses the 'Silicon Valley narrative' as a shorthand for "libertarianism, neoliberalism, and 'the ideology of the ‘new economy.’" These are as intertwined in the world of edtech as they are in consumer technology. Later, she goes on to identify three specific examples of this in blockchain-based technologies:

There are (at least) three elements of this discourse that are relevant to discussions about “the future of education” – that is, these elements are particularly instructive about the ideological shape of an imagined future. These are the anti-institutional bent of the blockchain; its reliance on decentralization (as a technology and as a metaphor); and its invocation of trust (and mistrust) as the key social behavior mediated by the technology.

This is important stuff, and I could feel my worldview being re-aligned when reading this article. The blockchain approach to building consensus is something that explicitly goes against the kind of solidarity inherent in other methods of decision-making. It's less human than those processes.

The word “decentralization” is often used interchangeably by those in technology as “democratization,” but that strikes me as a rhetorical sleight of hand used to wave away the accumulation of private wealth and power and the dismantling of the public sector, cheered by those espousing the neoliberal and libertarian politics of Silicon Valley.

I've got some thinking to do here.

Investigating the Potential for Miscommunication Using Emoji

Investigating the Potential for Miscommunication Using Emoji

As someone who worked remotely for three years with Mozilla, and works from home for clients now, the nuances of electronic communication fascinate me.

This particular article is about how emojis show up on different platforms. The above scale shows the reaction of a sample polled by the author when shown the 'smiling' emoji. As you can see, the one used by Apple is interpreted in a significantly-different way than that used by other vendors.

The article's a short one and definitely worth a read. You may then want to check out Emojipedia, a great resource to see what will show up on ohter people's devices when you include an emoji in your message!

Brick by Brick: a free guide to building awesome communities

Brick by Brick: a free guide to building awesome communities

I came across this when building something at a hack day this week. Ostensibly, it's a guide to using Telescope, an open-source 'social news' app to build an online community. However, it's much more widely applicable.

The best community-builder I know, my friend and former colleague Laura Hilliger gave it a thumbs-up, so it must be good!

Also worth exploring

Within the linkpalooza that is my online life, these are some 10 other places I've found some things of interest:
  1. Should we scrap benefits and pay everyone £100 a week? by John Harris (The Guardian)
  2. Study: Dyson hand-dryers aerosolize germs on unwashed gloves, spreading them farther than other methods by Cory Doctorow (BoingBoing)
  3. Nick Campbell: The Unexpected Benefits of Sharing Everything You Know by Dave Benton (99U) 
  4. Neuroscience Learns What Buddhism Has Known for Ages: There Is No Constant Self by Aimee Kuvadia (GOOD)
  5. No psychological harm to children who play lots of video games, study says by Jill Barshay (The Hechinger Report)
  6. If You Work More Than 50 Hours a Week, You're Probably Not Getting More Done by Eric Ravenscraft (Lifehacker)
  7. Congratulations! You've Been Fired by Dan Lyons (New York Times)
  8. Style Over Everything by Matt McCue (99U)
  9. A bunch of great educational-ish iPad apps for kids by Jason Kottke (
  10. The tool isn’t the problem… by Jory MacKay (Medium)

GIF of the week

We took our children to see Zootropolis at the cinema yesterday, and it's great! I don't think I've seen such a good kids' film since Toy Story 2.

This character on the left is perfect, he's the 'welcome guy' at the police station and I guarantee we've all met someone like him before. 

What I find fantastic about animation nowadays compared to when I was young is that anything is possible. The technology has advanced to such an extent that storymakers can do whatever they want.

So if you haven't already done so, go and see Zootropolis. I can guarantee you won't regret it! 

Quotation of the week

"If you don't want to be crowded, don't attend the theatre."
Until next week!


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