The Fire

Tonight was going to be a good night. I was booked in to speak at Nerd Nite, so I left work a little early to have one final practice. I was nervous about my ending – I had a couple of lines I really wanted to memorise and nail to round out the talk. 

It was then I got a phone call. The number on the dash said Unknown. I don’t usually answer these calls but I did today. I hit the answer button on the steering wheel. Usually they’re telemarketers, today it was a police officer. 
I confirmed my identity and address. I was then informed there had been a fire at my home address. OK. I was literally a block away. I turned into the street still speaking to the officer sitting in the paddy wagon with the flashing lights at the entrance to our street. 

There were two fire trucks in the middle of the road. A hose linked to the hydrant in the middle. It was full and snaked it’s way up the the road. There were maybe four other police cars creating a strobic pulse of red and blue across my field of vision. 

Thank god my wife was at work. Thank god my daughter was at day care. Thank god we were safe. 

I got out and was informed of what was happening. A fire in the front bedroom. Our bedroom. The glass was shattered and in some spots looked melted and fused like toffee sitting on the sill. The bricks were stained black. 

Firefighters all kitted up in their gear walked in and out carrying an array of equipment. The fire was out. It was limited to the bedroom but the other widows, and what I could see inside, was stained black. Black and burnt. Soot and ash. 

The station commander spoke with me to get the lay of the land. Where were the powerpoints? What was plugged in? At the same time guys from the power company claimed up the ladder and disconnected the wire. The umbilical to the house was severed. I guess it was safe now. Dead, but safe. 

It was then I was told there were signs of forced entry. Fuck. I mentally check the events of the day. I’d dropped my wife and daughter off and had then gone home to practice of my talk. I’d locked everything up, checked the back door was bolted. This wasn’t me being being absent minded, even when I’m absent minded I always go to check and double check myself. There’s a compulsion to just make sure, you don’t want it to be the one time…

Detectives arrived. They took down details and asked questions. 

Fuck. What is going on? I tried to call my wife but couldn’t get her. I called Mum. I told her what happened. A fire at our house… but I didn’t know anything else. I’ll let you know when I do. I called my wife again. No answer. Just her too pleasant, too normal sounding voicemail. This wasn’t the time for normal. 

More questions and answers. Fire and Police quizzing me. I’m good at trivia, but the minutae of our lives? Not so much. Questions about locks and doors and windows. I think I told them the wrong date of birth for my daughter. My mind just went blank. 

What about the photos? Shit, what had I backed up? How much was in the cloud? Oh god, I can’t get those back. 

“Was there a TV in the front room?”

“Ahhh …. Yeah. Next to the window there.”

“TVs gone.”

The detective scrawled that down. 

Shit they took stuff too? 
The computer? The hard drives? 

How much had I properly backed up to the cloud? Stupid internet. If it hadn’t been so fucking slow! 

What else did they take? We don’t even own anything expensive! 

Wife calls. I spoonerise the news. “There’s been a house at the fire”. We curse and cry and breath relief that each body is safe and our little one is oblivious. 

I don’t know what was next. Questions. Weird ones. Why is my mouth so dry? What kind of stress reaction is that? I couldn’t tell or scream or cry if I wanted. The liquid in my body has evaporated. I spot the quaffed look of a reporter and a camera with a long lens. I had a camera in there. We’ll make the news. Wow this IS news! 

Shit my talk. 

My wife arrives and we hug. Her eyes are red and splotchy already. Fuck. It’s our common word, one we share in this moment. 

My uncle appears. The family newswire at work.  He’s offers a hand. A supportive “fuck” and an optimistic perspective. It’s all just stuff. You can repair and rebuild all that. You can … I guess. 

Aunty arrives too. Hugs and tears. I’ve got them too now. 

I don’t know what to do. I could handle the questions. Now we’re just waiting. A fan to blow the smoke. Spot checks and heat sensors. The carbon monoxide is still a bit high. “You can go in and grab some essentials”. But I don’t have any. No clothes. No socks. No underpants. I have what I’m wearing. They’re all burnt. 

When we go in – its devastating. The light open house with its white walls, wooden floors and red kitchen we knew and created is all stained black. Black that drips down the walls. Ash and plaster on the floor. The bedroom door is charred through. And everything is gone. 

It’s not the fire that shocks me. They took everything. Computer, DVD player, my guitars (all of them), the fucking modem?!? The reverse cycle unit has melted down the wall. 

Doors and drawers opened. Units moved. Everything rummaged and ruined. And then the fire on top of that? Are you kidding me?

The air is acrid. Wife is crying. I don’t want to be here. They took my bike. The one I’d just bought to replace the one that got stolen. The one I kept inside to stop it from being stolen. They took that too. 

I head into my daughters room. Past her “art wall”. All those bright colours now stained black too. Her bedroom seems untouched. Ash, but not the thick black that drips down everywhere else. Her toy animals are there. What do I take? We can come back, but not till tomorrow. We take her bunny. I grab the two photos of her and a friend too, just so that there’s something real to salvage. I check the garage, they left that. Our childhood treasures look like they’re still there. Lawn mower too. 

That’s kind of it. Forensics in the morning and some poor sod is on guard all night. We shake hands. 

“I need to do something”. I try to be practical in a moment of despair and loss and grief. Distraction so I don’t have to think about all this. We need pyjamas, socks, underpants. It dawns on me – I have no clothes anymore. No shoes. 

We thank Uncle and Aunty. Family means so much right now. There’s text messages coming in. 

We head to KMart. Cheap and painless shopping. Function trumps style. No-one here knows that this is all we have. These three little bags. 

We head to Mums. She has our everything. Picked her up from daycare and entertained her. We have a hug. Wife tells her the news. On the way we agreed she should know. She has to know sometime that we aren’t going home. That some of her stuff is gone. The television gets tears. It’s been good to her. 

We hug and talk and I call the insurance company. I don’t know how this works. I’ve never done this before. I don’t even know what happens next. Tonight, nothing I guess. I talk to family text and chat. How do I tell everyone else? Facebook I guess. My talk… 

We eat a little. The little one stays up till eight. Way past bedtime. She’s tired. So are we. So are the phones, as batteries are on red but we have no chargers. It’s the little things. 

Late night shopping. I can get more. We can power up overnight. Supermarket too, for toothbrushes and deodorant. The little things. 

Home and sit. I’m drained. Messages and support. It’s nice. Comforting. The world is a nice place, people ARE good. 

Except for the ones who break in, take all your stuff and then to rub salt into the wound – burn you house. 
There’s lots of small things. Little reminders. Tomorrow we’ll dig through the ash and find big things. We’ll salvage what’s left. 
It’s weird, knowing you’ve lost almost every physical object you’ve ever know. It’s not the stuff though – it’s the sentiment. It’s every single choice and process that went into acquiring it. It’s the loss of the effort involved. This stuff didn’t just appear. It came from working and planning and striving. And now it’s gone. 

PS: Thanks to our neighbours and the emergency services. They did an amazing job today and I am truly thankful. 

PPS: We made the news

Ditch the Duality

This presentation was developed for a series of Think Pieces at Charles Sturt University. I’ve nominated to do these for the last few years, mainly because it gives me an opportunity to explore issues relating to education and technology in a slightly more expansive (and sometimes provocative) way. My take on these think pieces is not for me to do all the thinking – but open up a channel to explore some different ideas.

I developed the topic for this presentation about 6 months ago – having a notion of what I wanted to discuss. What I’ve ended up with is probably not what I orginally intended but actually more cohesive. It brings together a number of ideas I’ve previously blogged about (interaction, abstraction & mediation) and ties in with some interesting pieces I’ve been reading recently – most notably this post from Nathan Jurgenson. Nathan’s post appeared at the perfect time – one where I had the ideas but not the taxonomy laid out – so I’ve borrowed quite a bit of his post.

Let me know what you think!

You Are Not In Control

Tonight I’m giving a presentation for INF537 Digital Futures Colloquium, a subject part of the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).

While the title slide is a little ominous it’s aimed at being a provocation to the class to stimulate discussion rather than a lecture. I really want to hear what the students have to say – even if they think I’m way off.

Hopefully the seminar “provides the stimulus to identify and reflect critically on topics that have implications for a student’s own professional development, professional practice and scholarly interest” the subject aims to do.

Personality in Teaching: Content, Activity & Relationships

Martin Weller’s post on the role of personality in education has stimulated a lot of really interesting conversation and dialogue (it’s particularly interesting to see so many comments on a blog post these days!). I’ve ummed and ahhed about writing a response to Martin’s post but I honestly couldn’t articulate what I was trying to say. This post is like Martin’s – some musings on the idea of personality – and how it relates to teaching and pedagogical models. There’s a disconnect for me between the personality in say an xMOOC and a course like DS106. How it’s expressed and what it represents are two very different expressions of “personality”. One sees personality as something akin to celebrity – the other uses personality as an adhesive or conduit that connects people, ideas and expression. MOOCs made embedding the personality into the content the main feature of their curriculum. Don’t learn a topic from just amy old hack, learn it from the “best”. The video has become so ubiquitous in MOOC pedagogy because it provides the simplest and most immediate injection of personality. Text is too hard, too nuanced and it’s not like you ever interact with the actual lecturer anyway. Content provides the only real way to embed any sense of the “teachers” personality. (Yes I’m using a few terms “loosely” in that paragraph). To me the objective dilemma that plagues institutions like the OU aligns quite nicely with the Reusability Paradox that illustrates the inverse relationship between reusability and pedagogical effectiveness. The more something becomes objective the less personality it retains and the less that there is to relate to. You need some personality but just how much? Yet when you think about it, particularly in the case of say the OU, personality is there – it’s just down the line. Rather than be in the content it occurs when the individual tutors that students interact with. Personality comes through this relationship rather than through the content. As I listened to Doug Belshaw and Dai Barnes discuss Martin’s post on their TIDE podcast the concept of “relationship” was raised. Rather than content being the focus in the classroom it’s the relationship that really matters. Which is one of the affordances of face to face teaching, particularly in schools where you have time and proximity on your side. That kind of deep and meaningful relationship is pretty difficult to establish online and so that expression of personality tend to be lost Interestingly when I think about the kind of work someone like Jim Groom, personality is often exhibited not through the content nor through establishing a deep relationships, but the activity of the course. Jim embeds himself in the tasks and activity of the course in a way that’s unmatched by most of his contemporaries. The wacky topics, the gifs, the assignment bank this is where Jim’s personality is embedded. Why? Because he makes himself a vital part of that activity. He is part of the action, not a passive observer, but an active participant – a learner as much as a teacher. It made me think that there are these three key expressions of personality in teaching:

  • Content
  • Activity
  • Relationship

Each of these components compliments the other and by changing the order of emphasis, where the personality is most expressed, there’s a fundamental shift in the pedagogical approach and the delivery to the students. What’s also interesting is that if any of these items are missing the learning experience is compromised. Content, Activity and Relationship actually provide an interesting model for understanding and mapping teaching, and more broadly education. When I think about it, it may provide an interesting lens to look at current trends. At first glance I’d say that MOOCs represent the pinnacle of a Content First approach. DS106 of Activity First and classroom teaching (perhaps best exhibited in primary and lower secondary schools) the focus is Relationships First. Shifting the emphasis between the three components provides a way of changing the possible pedagogies deployed. An online course that shifts from being fairly content centric to relationship centric would be pretty different in terms of design and structure. So too would shifting the emphasis in higher education to a more Activity First model – both in face to face and online.

The Quiet Page & Linking the Web

A number of recent posts and articles I’ve read discuss the concept of linking – Will Deep Links Ever Truly Be Deep?, Beyond Conversation, Follow-up: Reader as Link Author, How we might link and The Web We Have to Save.

Each in their own way has resurfaced an idea that I had a number of years ago. The year was 2011 and I’d spent about 3 weeks in the US as part of professional experience program. I’d spent a lot of time in the company of some great thinkers and innovators. At at some point there was a discussion about books – the supposed death of print, the inadequacy of ebooks but the potential that digital technology has for rethinking what makes a “book”.

Out of those discussions and over some long days driving I started to flesh out some ideas about what could be, where could the concept of the book go once it had been made digital? I wrote it down, drew it up on paper and left it there. Knowing the idea wasn’t ready. I couldn’t see how it could be done. Not yet anyway. But I pulled that paper out over the summer and read through it. Rethought it and started to rework it. And the big idea?

The Quiet Page.

At that original point in time most discussion was around what digital could add to the reading experience. Media, interaction, social media, video, analytics, data metrics, the list was endless. I was actually draw to the simplified, the unadulterated text. To be able to experience words and language without distraction. Without embellishments. Without blue underlines, embedded video, high definition graphics, interactive elements or embedded social media – the quiet page.

Text delivered to my liking. My font, my size in my colour or screen setup. Quiet. Relaxed. Readable.

And from the quiet page we can add the ability to turn on functions. To add to the quiet page layers of functionality. To view the text in different ways. To move beyond the navigation of our magic ink, and to embed the text with additional contextual information.


  • To see it linked to other resources to show its research and context. The internal and external connections of the text itself. (Author)
  • To add richness by adding media, visual and auditory elements that help enhance the message. (Publisher)
  • To annotate it myself. To highlight underline and note. To visualise and add my experience with the text. (Personal)
  • To view others experiences of the text. To see their notes and discussions. To see their highlights and to experience the text in a social and shared way. (Social)
  • To create trails. To connect the text to other content, ideas and resources myself. To place the text in my context, my experience and my knowledge. (Synthesis)
  • And then to share those trails. To let others see how I’ve contextualised the text. To see my experience but to then be able to add to it and expand it. (Connected)

From the Quiet Page you can do all these things – because the page doesn’t change. Each layer is an enhancemennt, an addition to the text rather that part of it. The Quiet Page allows the text to be adopted for other functions and purposes. To become non-linear, lived, felt, experienced and shared. To map and chart the interactions with the text. To go far beyond the “book”.

The point was to link the text. Not just in one way, but many. Internally and externally. Personal and social. Private and shared. And to cross between those states. To make the external internal, the personal social and the private shared. To link the text to life.

This discussion around linking – in particular Mike’s contribution – has made that importance of linking clear. That it is one of the key differentiators of the digital – not just the linking itself, but what the linking enables. It allows connections to be formed – not just between data, ideas or information, but people too. They provide a way to express, to visualise and map connections. To share, create ad communicate with humanity beyond our physical and temporal constraints.

The link is unique and powerful. It drives the potentially of the digital medium and needs to be enhanced rather than killed off or replaced.

Otherwise all that’s left is the Quiet Page.

Moving. Writing. Learning.

This blog has been a bit quiet of late. It’s not for a lack of things to say or lack of things being done, but rather a lack of time to do so.

In the past week and a bit I’ve started a new blog and re-evaluating my online presence – where things live, who controls what, what I’m trying to say, what I’m trying to be.

In most cases what I put online is pure self expression. I don’t do this for anyone except myself. When I started this blog it was just another attempt at blogging – one that spans back about a decade of repeated failures. This one has stuck because it came at the right time I guess. I was actually doing interesting things and having interesting ideas – my previous failures might be attributed to youth and lack of anything worthy to contribute.

But now I’m in a different mindset – too much to say. Not that I care if anyone actually listens – what I’ve found through blogging is that the externalisation of ideas is profoundly useful. Putting ideas and thoughts into words, constructing them in ways that can be understood, solidifies them and reduces the jumble going on inside my head.

Writing brings clarity.

Clarity is becoming an incredibly important part of my life. Juggling busy work hours and home life with a wife and toddler, while under the pressure of a tidal wave of information is exhausting. Having clarity creates a stillness. A moment of zen. Even if only temporary, clarity is becoming incredibly important for my ongoing mental health. It gives me the mental space to switch between tasks and dedicate time and attention to where I am and live in that moment.

This is in opposition to the manufactured chaos that the media and corporate society inflicts on us. They actively deny us the ability to think by providing an infinite amount of distraction under the illusion of choice and a retarded form of free-market economics.


As part of a personal project to learn how to use static web publishing tools I set up a new blog – Inhale. My idea is that it will be a replacement for the reading list posts I previously posted here that capture the interesting bits of content I inhale as part of daily life on the web. The reading list posts were pretty useful but time consuming because I did very little prep. Inhale is aimed at being more “stream of consciousness” – a link to the post, article or podcast with a quick comment attached. It’s a poor cousin to Stephen Downes’ OLDaily or John Gruber’s Daring Fireball, but definitely inspired by the value that curation plus that little piece of commentary adds to the collective discussion and understanding.

The other new site I’m planning is Exhale. A place for quick, simple posts, half formed ideas and things I’ve learnt. I’m not sure what form it will take. The Jekyll workflow I’ve developed utilises the iOS Editorial app which means it’s extremely simple to get a post written and up on GitHub. I’ve been looking for an excuse to try Known for sometime though. And there’s also Federated Wiki, which I love and have been trying to work out how to incorporate. I might need a bit more of a think about this one. (PS Open to other suggestions if you’ve got one).

What I’m seeing is an opportunity to expand my online presence and to use different platforms and their different affordances. Rather than try and find a single solution (a unicorn right?) and instead make smaller investments in tech that take advantages of the plethora of tools out there.

Learning Jekyll has lit a spark. I’ve had to learn it from scratch and have been doing things way beyond my comfort zone. I’ve been installing via the command line, editing code, tweaking domain settings and really learning.

Learning is something that I love. The last few years I have been quite passive in my learning – spending most of my time reading, observing and reflecting rather than doing. This process has been much more hands on and as a result I feel enthused and empowered.

I’ve already redone a prior project, a blog of my life lessons for my daughter, am designing a template for a Jekyll resume page (already sorted the design) and hoping to experiment with using subdomains to support the whole family in having a web presence, and I want to dig into the older posts on this blog to organise, edit and revisit some of the ideas packed away in there.


I’m not sure what’s changed but I can feel a real momentum behind me. There’s a spark and a desire to move and disrupt the way I’ve been doing things. I think I’ve felt too comfortable it’s how things were and as a result too passive. I’ve been shouting from the sidelines and realised the only way to change is to get into the game. The MYOS post (and those from others it links out to) was for me a real kick in the arse. A turning point because I could actually see a different way of doing things. An alternate model, not one that fits the current narrative but could actually change it.

This blog will be staying here. There’s a history and a presence attached to it and a heap of hyperlinks I don’t want to kill. I’d say it will evolve and change and be augmented by other stuff. It also provides a stable home, somewhere to come back to, to revisit and retreat to.

Make Your Own Slogan: MYOS and the Networked Future

When I started this post it was only a week since I submitted an abstract for the dLRN15 Conference, but the it’s taken much longer to pull this post together than I originally thought. The title of the talk that I submitted was Empowering the Node & Avoiding Enclosure and in this post I want to begin the process of sketching out some of the core motivations and ideas I’ve been having in regards to the technology for living and working in a networked world.

This is has been a process of attempting to bring together some of the ideas I’ve been dwelling over for the last year and a half about what is happening online, particularly in the ed-tech space, and alternative ways that we could do things. The ideas are very much tied into notion of networks, in particular the concept of distributed systems. I put it down on my “year ahead” post back in January as a topic that I really wanted to explore this year, so when the call for papers, and the list of speakers/organisers came out – I figured this was as good a time as any.

In the meantime Jim Groom has published a couple of posts, one & two, that share similar ideas, particularly around the architectures around how to build alternatives. Yesterday Michael Felstein also put together this great post on the EDUCAUSE NGDLE and an API of One’s Own. Both share commonalities with what I’ve been thinking in particular around APIs and an “operating system” of sorts. It’s kind of why I decided to get this post out even though in some areas it’s still only half-baked.

So what’s the problem?

The big issue that I have with the current raft of technology is centralisation. Some of the big players are working desperately towards concentrating all your data, profiles, media and personal information into their own systems (see Facebook has officially declared it wants to own every single thing you do on the internet). Commercial social media tools have given life to the idea that networks are things that can be created, manipulated, bought and sold. However,

a network isn’t a thing, but an expression of individual nodes, how they interact with each other and the relationships they develop.
The Network & Me

These enterprises do not operate as networks, but as containers. They are an explicit attempt to seize and monetise our digital endeavour by controlling the vectors through which they flow. They are closed, controlled and centralised systems that are attempting to enclose the web, the notion of commons and the ability to connect and share. Yes it will be possible, but on their terms and in their space. As the importance for digital networks grows, the tools we currently rely on are undermining their ability to function. They are becoming a medium where networks do not grow and thrive, but silos in which they become stunted and curtailed by a simple binary choice – accept or decline.

Technologies in which digital networks can thrive don’t look like the tools available to us today, or those planned for tomorrow. Not the learning management system, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Medium.

So what’s the alternative?

I’ve been a huge fan of Jim Groom & Tim Owens’ work on developing up the literature and architecture for a Domain Of Ones Own. I think that idea – a space owned and controlled by the user – is paramount in this networked age. It forms a solid foundation from which to build networks in a distributed way, rather than the centralised silos that are currently available.

I’ve been eating up information relating to domain of ones own projects and the related technologies and concepts like Known, APIs, Docker & Containers, Federated Wiki, WordPress, JSON, GIT, node.js, Open Badges, xAPI, Blockchain – because to me they all work towards developing an idea of how a domain of ones own can be transformed into an operating system of ones own. An operating system that can drive us forward into the networked age by changing the current technological paradigm to one that seeks to empower the node rather than enclose them. “Nodeware” rather than explicit software or hardware.

This platform would aim to improve the ability for each individual to connect and share with others in truly negotiated and social ways. A platform that allows us to rethink the ways in which we learn and engage with digital networks – distributed, negotiated, social, interactive and sovereign.


The genesis of this was an attempt to rethink the Learning Management System in a distributed rather than a centralised way. I was over bemoaning what the LMS is and was and so took it upon myself to think through the what a viable alternative might actually look like. If we simply reinventing the LMS we’d end up with something like the Learning Management Operating System that Feldstein and co developed. The central idea I was working on however was to provide students, rather than the institution, a way of creating content, recording learning, developing a portfolio and managing their online identity. The challenging component of this was to think beyond the standard institutional IT infrastructure and beyond a better centralised system but one that was truly distributed system. Domain of Ones Own showed that there was a viable alternative, and coupled with concepts embedded in the indie web movement such as POSSE (Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere) and the growing momentum behind APIs ideas started to form around a way to manage, mind and make your own learning:


That image was from about a year ago – the kernel of an idea was there but not necessarily the means to take it forward.

Over the new year I participated in the first Federated Wiki Happening and the experience of not only using, but embracing, a federated, socially constructed, non-linear and cooperative environment was fantastic. It opened my eyes to what could be possible if we re-thought not on the applications but the underlying technologies we used too. I loved the open nature of the federated wiki, but what I fell in love with was the concept of being an “empowered node“. The system worked in a way that empowered the individual. It provided tools and methods to create an individual identity while at the same time allowing others to connect social and professionally.

Last year I also worked on our university Badges project, and have been thinking about the potential of xAPI to capture a more nuanced and broader spectrum of learning and so have been broadening my concept of what’s possible technically and culturally.

A fortnight ago we held a workshop on how as an institution we could support Learning Technology Innovation. One of the key areas I wanted to explore with the group was APIs. So in the process of planning and putting together a presentation for the event I’ve been engaged in that space too. Just follow Kin Lane and have a play with IFTTT and you will quickly understand the power and potential that APIs offer. (PS this video offers a neat explanation of what the hell APIs are).

Welcome to MYOS

MYOS is the name I’ve given to the concept of developing a personal and social software system that provides not only the tools and technology to empower the individual in the networked age but some guiding principles about how it should enable, enhance and empower the user.

The name came from a bit of a play around with various combinations of words to describe what it would encapsulate:

  • make your own stuff
  • mind your own stuff
  • manage your own stuff
  • my online self
  • my operating system

MYOS could simply be – Make Your Own Slogan :)

MYOS is very much the model the Jon Udell laid out as “hosted life bits” – a number of interconnected services that provide specific functionality, access and affordances across a variety of contexts. Each fits together in a way that allows data to be controlled, managed, connected, shared, published and syndicated. The idea isn’t new, Jon wrote about life bits in 2007, but I think the technology has finally caught up to the idea and it’s now possible to make this a reality in very practical way.

Technology Foundations

There are two key technical components to MYOS – Containers and APIs.

Containers are a relatively new phenomenon and arose as part of Docker. They allow individual applications and services to be packaged in a way that can be deployed on a single server. Apps can be written in any language and utilise a variety of databases because they are contained their own package. At the same time they can talk to each other – share common layers that allow for greater integration. Containers provide a way for a variety of “life bits” to be co-located and packaged in re-deployable ways.

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) at their most basic level allow applications to to talk and interact with other applications. APIs are the vectors through which information travels between systems. For many years they were primarily used internally with large and complex systems, but they are now emerging into the public space. They provide you the ability to cross-post between twitter, facebook, google and instagram. They allow you to push files to and from Dropbox from a multitude of applications. APIs are increasingly accessible not just to developers but to users too. Services like IFTTT allow almost anyone the ability to harness APIs to create useful “recipes” that link their own data and interactions in ways that increase effectiveness and impact.

Founding Principles

On top of those technical foundations MYOS aims to embed a number of key principles common with the Indie Web movement and help define what the system aims to do – Empower the Node:

  1. You are in control
  2. Data is yours
  3. Connections are negotiated
  4. Enhance and enable diversity

You are in control

The focus of MYOS is to empower the individual rather than re-enforce the network. Empowered nodes provide a stronger and more resilient network that is able to not only cope but thrive on change. An empowered individual is not locked in or enclosed within a single system but is free to move between them.

Data is Yours

You should always be in control of your own data. You should be able to decide who and how that data is accessed, viewed and shared. Data sovereignty is now more important than ever as we see how state surveillance and commercial enterprise has transformed private data into a commodity that is bought, sold and exploited. MYOS should ensure that any data is ultimately controlled and managed by the individual.

Connections are negotiated

In a world that relies on the network we need to ensure that democratic values are not lost. Individual choice has increasingly been eroded by the binary – Accept or Decline. We need to move beyond the autocratic rules that have come to define much of our digital lives. Connections need to be negotiated and a key way of developing that is building in a handshake mechanism that ensures transparency but also encourages users to negotiate terms that suit them. This would include being able to decide what information is shared, how it is shared, what is hidden, what is private, what is relevant, what is preferred as well as negotiating a period of renewal. This handshake could include the development of “data lifetime” clause to ensure that data isn’t kept in perpetuity, but can be removed or forgotten without the deletion or removal of the user or service.

Enhance and enable diversity

Rather than enforce a monoculture, MYOS aims to promote diversity. While there is a need for a stable core, MYOS should promote a diverse eco-system of applications. From a technical level a containerised approach enables different application built with different languages, foundations and data structures.

Making it Work

For MYOS to work it hinges on a number of cultural concepts:

Owners not Consumers

I’ve written before about my notion that society is transitioning from passive consumerism to active ownership. The current model of networks is very much on built on consumerist conventions and why much of the potential inherent in the technology has devolved into manipulative and exploitative marketing. As an alternative Ownership requires a personal investment and active participation in order to receive a reward. An owner understand that there is always risk and a cost involved, but rather than be manipulated into supporting a venture, they wish to be informed. Value needs to be demonstrated and transparent.


In a cultural capacity openness is still a fairly new and one that is continues to challenge and disrupt existing cultural modes, model and practices. Many aspects of Western culture are built on practices that install and maintain rigid hierarchies of power and exploitation that are achieved by ensuring knowledge is limited through secrets, lies and division. openness destroys those notions and instead requires trust to be created, managed and maintained through transparency and a shared experience. Openness seeks alignment rather than consensus, cooperation rather than collaboration – which tends to turn all processes into a “consensus engine”. Openness encourages federation rather than centralisation, a key tenet of MYOS.


For MYOS to ever function it requires a community, but communities don’t just happen. They require encouragement and nurturing as well as a level of active participation and contribution. Rather than being an emergent outcome of a social environment they require the result of careful fostering and cultivation. Community is the outcome of contribution, not participation. MYOS needs to be something that works with people, not for or to, and lies in the process of reclamation and liberation.

Agnostic Appropriation

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.
– Steve Jobs

MYOS isn’t a new thing. It’s an attempt to draw a line that connects a number of concepts that relate to our digital lives and the way we are increasingly living and working in this connected space. Movements (like the IndieWeb) and software (like Known) already provide aspects of the kinds of functions I see MYOS fulfilling. MYOS is an attempt to create a map of a networked idea.


In developing up a set of features for MYOS I started thinking about the idea of “Nodeware”. A combination of software applications, hardware and device that don’t just provide a service to the user – they empower them. They provide a rich set of tools to create, manage and maintain their online selves. Names are purely illustrative, but below is a quick list of starting features:

Identity Management – profiles and memberships
Cards – identities and personas
Keys – authorised access
Records Management – quantified self
Sash – badge display
Qualifications – certification, diplomas & degree
Shelf – web and print publications
Gallery – photos and graphics collections
Cinema – video collections
Radio – audio collections
Portfolio – assembled artefacts
Notes – ideas, notes and fragments of thought
Scrapbook – collection of the curated and salvaged

Expanded not replaced

The idea I’ve been working from is not an attempt to go and reinvent or recreate existing applications and services but to expand their features and connect them together. Open source projects make a perfect candidate for this expansion – so rather than replace Known or WordPress they can be developed in ways that integrate it into MYOS. One way that this could work is by rethinking something like cPanel and turning it into an OS level application that provides an underlying data structure and tools to connect and deploy various application via their containers.

More to come…

I’ve felt a little rushed to put this post out, but I wanted to join in the conversation not sit outside it. I’ll admit to not having everything fleshed out, or even properly specced, it’s still very much about an alternative way of thinking, designing and working with systems online. There’s a couple of posts I can see already that need to be written,in particular what the LMS and other institutional systems might evolve into when students are using MYOS. Until then I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Featured Image: flickr photo by rrruuubbb shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Thoughts on Learning Experience (LX) Design

Straddling a background in design and an evolving career working in Education I’ve been aware of the the commonalties between the fields of user experience (UX) design and learning/instructional/educational design and the opportunity for cross fertilisation. So I’m really interested to see the emergence of an attempt to formalise the relationship between two. This post are some of my initial thoughts.

At this early stage I think it’s vitally important that Learning Experience (LX) doesn’t fall for some of the misconceptions that mystify and befuddle UX.

One of my personal bug bears is the inability for many people to actually define what the User Experience actually is. Take this image for example:

design vs UX

I fundamentally disagree with the way the image is labelled. What we have here are two alternate USER INTERFACES. The User Interface is the tool or process in which to achieve the intended goal, it’s central component but it is only part of the user experience. The experience relates to the journey to the destination. Of course the interface, or the way that we get there impacts on us but it’s not the user experience. It’s part of a greater whole.

Another way to look at UX design is to take a look at the factors that make it up:

Those interested in learning design can quite quickly see the commonalities between this model and say TPACK and how things tend to overlap and overlay rather than act in isolation. You can also see why the User Interface is so often confused with UX – it’s the central component that overlays each of the other disciplines, but the centre is not the whole.

For those interested in understanding a more nuanced approach to UX and how it impacts on LX I’d suggest engaging with the work of Whitney Hess. Whitney has been a guiding light for me in the domain of UX because she provides so much clarity in here writing an speaking. Let start with her 10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design and this summary side:

For LX to take off I think it needs something similar to explain what it is, and perhaps more importantly, it needs to articulate what it isn’t. (See MOOCs for what happens when these things don’t get articulated)

Whitney also put together these comparisons of interface and experience which might also be useful to clarify LX:

User Interface is a street light. User Experience is an evening stroll.
User Interface is a surfboard. User Experience is riding the tube.
User Interface is a camera. User Experience is a memory.
User Interface is a door knob. User Experience is keeping your conversation private.
User Interface is a book. User Experience is a land far, far away.
User Interface is a dimmer switch. User Experience is a romantic evening at home.

Why it matters?

Understanding UX and designing for it is almost the antithesis of business as usual because as human beings we don’t take the time or make the effort to see how things connect. In that sense its very much the same way we see Learning. We tend to think of learning as this linear storyline but that’s only how we picture it in hindsight. LX could provide a way for education to move beyond thinking in this linear way because it’s not how UX works and it’s not how learning works either. We have to start embracing the complexities of learning and design with that in mind, rather than seeking the simplicity of a single model, technology or mode.

I think LX is a concept that not only has legs, but it’s one that is vitally important as we attempt to make use of the affordances of our rich, connected and digital world.

User Experience is a big concept made up of tiny details, connections and relationships.

Learning Experience needs to ensure that it thinks of itself in the same way.

*PS Thanks to Joyce and Jess for kickstarting this whole thing :)

The precious thing we do

Dying is the most precious thing that we do, the most important and generative capacity that we share, and it’s the one thing that should restrain our chasing of productivity, status and stuff.

— Kate Bowles, Writing and Dying

I’ve long struggled with the way Western Cultures conceptualise death. Death is something I’ve been forced to come to terms with, to make peace with, and I think I have, but I’ve never been able to externalise that feeling or process. Kate has. This is how I think about death. Inevitable, but often avoidable and sometimes unnecessary at the same time. Giving while at the same time taking. It’s a force within us that’s equal to life itself. It often brings more power and clarity to our decisions. Death is precious, not something to be feared. Respected, acknowledged and contemplated.

Thoughts on Anzac Day

I spent today mostly with my daughter and in doing so could not have felt any more far removed from war, despite being surrounded and bombarded by its imagery for a number of weeks. I’ve seen ANZAC Day conflated with everything from supermarkets to fitness regimes. It’s gone beyond something I can ever relate to and has been turned into some commercial, plastic carnival.

On a day synonymous with the phrase “Lest We Forget” – I think we forgot.

A centenary on and Galipoli has been transformed into a myth that’s far removed from reality.

It was the moment that defined the Australian Nation.

If you were going to pick something from that era that defined Australia it wouldn’t be Galipoli. It would be what happened after the war. The rebuilding of a shattered society. Of repairing towns missing an entire generation of men. Of broken families that decided to mend and move on. Of mental anguish that destroyed not only individuals but enter families. It’s a story of women who sacrificed as much as the men. Women who had to clean up, recover and survive. Of a society that self medicated with booze and drank it the pain away. A society that embraced the surface dwelling larrikin as a mascot rather than confront the demons deep down and suppressed. It’s a white story too. One where we continued to not even recognise nations in our own county as actual people for another 50 years. A repressive, regressive nation that is yet to reconcile it’s mongrel beginnings.

Anzac Day doesn’t have to reflect any of that, but what it should, it doesn’t.

If it’s about remembering then let it be about that. Let’s not cram it in to a dawn service that takes grief and turns it into a well choreographed spectacle. Let’s not cram all that remembering into a morning so that we can fit in a footy match, get some shopping done and round it all out with a gamble.

What does that “remember”?