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Issue [#283]: Stop watching the news
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Morrissey's new album came out this week. Although I enjoyed The Smiths growing up, they peaked before my musical consciousness fully developed. As such, I'm a recent convert to Morrissey's lyricism and social commentary.

Interestingly, I was reading an article (offline) yesterday which pondered whether we can separate an artist's work from their values. Most of my political beliefs differ from Morrissey's (although we're both anti-royalists), yet I still very much appreciate his music. Increasingly, it seems, the social media hive mind can only rate an artist as valuable if it aligns with our ideologies.

If you've not listened to it, I'd encourage you to listen to Morrissey's sublime track 'Spent The Day In Bed' from his new album, which features these lyrics:

Stop watching the news!
Because the news contrives to frighten you
To make you feel small and alone
To make you feel that your mind isn't your own

Amen to that. His autobiography is also pretty spectacular if you missed it when it came out.

Photo by Frank Okay on Unsplash

"If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine." (Jim Barksdale)

I'm really skeptical about learning analytics. I definitely get that it could help some learners and teachers in some situations. but I can't help but think that most implementations pretty much assume consent and mine pretty sensitive data for not much benefit.

>> Maybe more isn’t better (The Ed Techie)

Martin Weller takes three unspoken assumptions in education to task in this post, "personalised learning is better", "people want more flexibility", and "more feedback is always better". In the specific case of learning analytics, he writes:

Receiving continual feedback on page dwells, scores, contributions, creates a stress to monitor the monitoring rather than engage in the activity. The research on immediate and delayed feedback is mixed, so maybe for some students a general “you’re doing ok” is sufficient.

I agree. While I've seen some great work in the world of learning analytics, a lot of it requires a nuanced understanding of data which few (including me) possess. I predict a race to the bottom, unless we're careful.


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"Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." (Abraham Lincoln)

Earlier this year, I deleted over 75,000 tweets that I'd composed over the decade I used the service. I could see which way the wind was blowing.

>> Why I’m deleting my Twitter account (Read the Tea Leaves)

This week, Nolan Lawson, who works for Microsoft, announced that he was quitting Twitter:

"I’m sure many of my friends from the conference and meetup scene will look at my announcement of deleting my Twitter account as a kind of career suicide. Clearly Nolan’s lost his mind. He’ll never get invited to a conference again, or at the very least he won’t be given top billing. (Conference websites usually list their speakers in descending order of Twitter followers. How else can you tell if a speaker is worth listening to, if you don’t know their follower count?)"

However, he doesn't care:

"Twitter has turned a wide variety of public and quasi-public figures – from Taylor Swift to a dude who speaks at tech conferences – into brand ambassadors for Twitter, and that ought to worry us. Despite what it claims, Twitter is not a neutral platform. It’s an advertising company with a very specific set of values, which it expresses both in how it optimizes for its core constituents (advertisers) and how it implements its moderation policies (poorly)."

I've got a 'verified profile' on Twitter, which was supposed to be a tool in combatting fake news, rather than a badge of honour. But it's become exactly the latter. That's become so problematic for Twitter that they've been forced to announce that they will now judge verified users’ offline behaviour.

The whole thing is a mess. Now, throw into the mix the announcemnet that they've found a new way to monetise your data and you might want to delete your Twitter account along with your Facebook.

Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash

"The trouble with life isn't that there is no answer, it's that there are so many answers." (Ruth Benedict)

As readers familiar with my work will be aware, over the past couple of years, I've strived to work a four-day week. I realise that I'm speaking from a position of privilege, and that as a straight white western male I'm playing life on the lowest difficulty setting, but I really think there's something in us all deciding to, well... work less.

>> We should all be working a four-day week. Here’s why (The Guardian)

Owen Jones writes:

"Indeed, a deeply unhealthy distribution of work scars our society. While some are working too much, with damaging consequences for their health and family lives, there are 3.3 million or so “underemployed” workers who want more hours. A four-day week would force a redistribution of these hours, to the benefit of everyone. This will be even more important if automation in sectors such as manufacturing, administration and retail creates more poorly paid work and more underemployment."

A couple of weeks ago, I read a wonderful book entitled Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams. I highly recommend it for those thinking about the future world we're creating for our children — particularly if you lean towards the left of the political spectrum and like technology...

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Other links you may find interesting

  1. Anatomy of learning (The RSA)
  2. The Real Goal of Open Educational Resources (Half an Hour)
  3. The Inconvenient Truth about Smart Cities (Scientific American)
  4. How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You've Ever Met (Gizmodo)
  5. Richard Stallman and the Vanishing State of Privacy (Factor Today)
  6. Anxiety Makes It Harder to Listen to Your Intuition (New York Magazine)
  7. There’s a Digital Media Crash. But No One Will Say It (Talking Points Memo)
  8. It's Time to Tax Compnies for Using Our Personal Data (The New York Times)
  9. Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web: 'The system is failing' (The Guardian)
  10. The Pentagon is set to make a big push toward open source software next year (The Verge)
Photo by Tina Rataj-Berard on Unsplash

Things I published this week

Until next week!


Doug Belshaw

Dr. Doug Belshaw is a consultant and co-op co-founder who helps people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology.

He talks to people on the Internet via, an instance of the decentralised Mastodon social network. Here's how to get started.

Some people say he sighs. Others say he eats pies. No-one sees his thighs.

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