Podcast: Ouch! with @davebriggs

Dave and Lloyd chat about early blogging, deleting blogs, thinking about workflow, outlining, working with Fargo! and WordPress, interspersed with Lloyd’s cluelessness about the basic dangers of electricity.

Download (45MB)

“The interesting thing about Bank Holidays…”
Lloyd’s recap of his early blogging
The actual first (undeleted) post on Perfect Path
Dave Winer’s Noteblog Format
Digital Team Blogs at DH
GTD – the five phases of work
Lloyd on Instagram
Posting to WordPress from Fargo
Getting WordPress content back into Fargo
WXR is the WordPress XML format
The source for wp2opml on Github
The tuttle2texas blog (imported from posterous)
The Somewhere post was the same post as the early blogging post.
Ouch! Again!
Day One
Try Doorbell Episode Three
BERG Weeknotes
Narrating Your Work

Fargo to WordPress Formatting Bug

I often use Fargo to compose posts on my wordpress.com blog.

But I’ve just seen a problem with formatting when you use the outline structuring for a list.

Here’s a list:

  • This item is at the top level of a list
    • It has a sub-entry
    • And another
  • And this is the second item in the list
  • And this the third.

I expect this to render as a bulleted list, instead it looks like a block of code – except when I updated the post with the following screenshots, the formatting was automatically corrected.

Here’s a screenshot of how it looked in Fargo:

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 13.45.59

And how it looked in the edit window of WordPress

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 13.46.56

Working out loud

I’ve always hated writing CVs. I could never convey the interest and excitement of work that I had done compressed into a sentence or two, written in the third person or the passive voice. It also seemed that it was always too much about me. When I looked at the work that I had done and wanted to do more of, I couldn’t, honestly, separate out my contribution from the contributions made by the rest of the team. And then there are the implicit assumptions in the CV system – you need it to get a job; the person reading it will likely be seeing several that are all the same – you have to stand out, but not too much; you have to be honest – not too braggy, not too humble – but still sell the idea of you hard enough as somebody they’d like to have around; and anyway since many people bend the truth in their favour, the reader will take what you’ve written with a pinch of salt.

And then you post it off and wait and wait and wait and it’s “Dear Mr Davis, I regret to inform you that this time your application was unsuccessful. Thank you for your interest in working for Ecch Corp.”

So yeah, me and CVs, we don’t get on.

Despite my loathing of the process, I did manage to get jobs. And I learned very quickly the value of gossip and chatting in the kitchen while the kettle boiled. I also learned, the hard way, that there are lots of rules about what you can say to whom, when and in what way. It’s really, really complicated and I think it’s one of the worst aspects of organisational life for me. Especially as I rose in the management hierarchy, I found that there were things me and my “peers” could talk about that couldn’t go further than this meeting room and should not be disclosed either to the higher-ups or my team.

My work had shifted from designing and managing information systems to the then newly-named field of Knowledge Management. In a nutshell this meant: how do we encourage people to share what they know, what they’ve learned in the job, that can help others learn more quickly and ensure that capabilities aren’t lost when people leave? But the best technology we had at the time involved lots of paper and moving the problem from “getting stuff out of people’s heads” to “getting stuff out of people’s file servers”.

And then I was introduced to blogging. And while I was too afraid at first to write my own, I read as many as I could find. The style then was different – there were fewer personal essays and more short paragraphs with a link attached – the sort of thing you now see as tweets (or sparks!).

It seemed to me that getting people to blog within our organisation was the obvious way to share knowledge that was really useful and timely and that archives would build up over time that would be really easy to search. David Weinberger’s “Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy” was my favourite motto. But hierarchy doesn’t like being subverted and soon my head was banging against the corporate brick walls.

So I resigned.

And I started blogging and you can read for yourself what happened since then by going back to my entries on this blog from September 2004 (the earliest entries that survived my habit of getting cold feet and deleting everything) and then clicking next post over and over again.

Almost immediately I saw the benefits of working out loud. People started to think they knew me because they’d read my blog. I’d bump into people at events and they’d say “Oh I know you, I’ve seen you on the internet”. Then they’d say “You know that thing you wrote about X, well we’ve been thinking about it and don’t know what to do with Y” and they became consulting clients. Others would say “Your website is interesting, how do you keep it up to date so regularly?” And they became my first *blog* consulting clients. And the same with podcasting and video-blogging; and running networking events; and creative collaboration; and crowd-funding; and social art; and so on and so on.

Most people now know me for Tuttle. The only promotional work that I did for that was to write what had happened and what I thought about it on my blog and the group blog we created. And I told people to “do cool stuff and talk about it on the internet”

And that was inspired by me seeing people who did the same:

One of the creative people whose blogging I’ve always admired was Dave Winer at Scripting News. Recently he’s gone back to a style that’s a mix of short essays and link-blogging. But at times he has published daily worknotes on his progress with programming projects, showing that it’s not only visually-oriented processes that benefit from this approach.

I also got a lot in the early days from following Hugh MacLeod’s work on gapingvoid.com – he was working out problems to do with making art and marketing by writing about them and getting engaged in conversation.

So I’ve been using Somewhere (dotcom) and talking to the people behind it – it’s a social network that asks you to share what you’re working on and provides provocations to elicit what you’ve done in the past, how you work, what you want to do. I think it provides an interesting view of my work, though it may take some time to build. I’m there, using it to see how it works, what it gives me that I don’t or can’t get elsewhere, observing how it’s developing. If it does work out, it could give you a better summary and intro to my work than any CV could.

I’m interested now in where it can go that isn’t just a niche micro-blogging platform. How can I really engage with the community there – the people I don’t already know but I should do because we have lots in common? And by “engage” I mean more than like and leave nice comments. How can I find new clients, suppliers and collaborators? I don’t know yet. All I know how to do is keep pushing out what I’m doing and see what happens.

Joining is still by invitation only, but I’ve got a special linky here for you if you want to get on board.

Caveat & Disclaimer: I am taking part in this site with my eyes open and you should too. There is currently no simple way of getting what you’ve put into the site out again. I don’t think that’s a good thing in general. I’ve raised it with the Somewhere Team – you can see the conversation we had here. Please bear that in mind before you pour great quantities of yourself in. I have no other connection with Somewhere, they haven’t paid me for this post (or for anything!) but I like the people involved and want to help them create something of value.

That aside, I’m interested to see what you’re working on today!

qik! before it’s too late! #indieweb

I’ve just seen that qik.com is finally going down. I did some work to download my videos last year soon after blip.tv torched my stuff.

I’m ashamed to say that I don’t seem to have documented the process. If I find anything, I’ll post it, but it went something like this – if you have better ways or you can see clunkiness in my approach, please let me know :)

Assumes you have some comfort using a Terminal – I basically used grep and wget


You might find reading the rest of this useful to understand the process, but there’s a gist with the best instructions I can do here: https://gist.github.com/lloyddavis/9807117

replace NUM_PAGES with how many summary pages you have and YOUR_USERNAME with your username – so for me it was 8 and lloyddavis

This gets you just a list of all the individual URLs, not the downloads themselves, that’s another step, but this could help

The download URLs are tucked away in an individual page for each video – the URLs for these pages are in the summary pages you’ll see if you go to “My Videos”

each of your pages has a URL starting with http://qik.com/lloyddavis/videos?page=1

download all of them (I had 8 pages)

use grep to extract all the lines with “play-button” in them – that will give you a list of URLs for the individual Video pages (like qik.com/video/5394230 ) that contain the download link.

strip out the junk from these lines and use wget to download one html file for each video.

UPDATE: The trouble is though that you need to authenticate with the server to get at these – that’s addressed in the stuff on github

The download links are of the form:


again, you can grep them out with the string “video-download”

put all these urls in a file and wget the heck out of them. Some won’t work, there were a few corrupted or empty as I remember.

Mixing the unconference format into a traditional conference

I ran an unconference session at a conference for Housing Tenant Engagement people last week. Dave and I touched on it in our latest podcast – he asked me how it had gone, how it worked in a situation where people hadn’t chosen specially to come to an open space, when they’d been there solely because of work, rather than interest. (Which is an interesting distinction to make, in itself!)

I didn’t have a great answer on Monday, other than what people had told me on the day, which was that they’d loved it – they’d felt set free by creating the agenda for themselves. They looked relaxed and happy and energised to me.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from the client with the transcribed feedback forms. And I’m glad to say that they confirmed what I thought and added a little more data. I’m not going to republish the comments directly because, I don’t think they were given in that spirit – they were shared with the organiser, not me and anyway there’s nothing extraordinary about any of them. Except when we run unconferences for ourselves, “happy sheets” are probably part of the paraphernalia that we reject!

The format of the event was that it started with lunch at the hotel, I ran an unconference slot from 2.30-5.30 and then they had a social event, then the next day was all traditional speakers and workshops. I left immediately after my session.

We divided the time up into three 45 minute slots to allow time for introductions, pitching and changeover between slots. We had four syndicate rooms and the one large room to play with so we could have had up to 6 sessions per slot – we had 18 pitches and some of those merged so that there were empty slots in the timetable. As usual, I didn’t see many people using the law of two feet – once they were sat, they were sat, but with 6 sessions to choose from there were on average 10 people per session.

So. Roughly a third of people who gave feedback (in total 72 – I’m not sure how many of these attended both days of the conference) mentioned the unconference in a positive remark – most of those were in answer to the question “What did you particularly like about the event”. Some people mentioned it in response to the question “What did you not like about the event” but none of these were out and out “I didn’t like the unconference” – they included a couple who had worried about the format at the beginning but warmed to it over time; a few who said “I didn’t like X or Y but I liked the unconference”; a couple who would have liked to have had more notice of the format and a better chance to prepare; one who said all the moving about was a bit disruptive; one who wanted to set more of the agenda in the same way and one who thought that the unconference had spoiled them for the traditional workshop sessions.

I hear all of these at most unconferences I facilitate and I feel the same way a lot of the time too. As Dave and I discussed, there are always people who think the pitching can be done in a smarter way and who wish other people were in the room, but the process just works: we give ordinary people the opportunity to talk about the things that matter to them and they love it.

And another thing… talking to @davebriggs again

Download 40MB

Lloyd and Dave talk about social capital in the context of unconferences.

From bootstrappers to bureaucrats (#LocalGovCamp – oh my!)

I haven’t dug deeply for other bits of the story, but you’ll get a feel for what this is all about looking at posts from Dave Briggs and Sarah Lay. I used a rude word on Twitter about it and raised the hackles of the pious. What can I say? I can rarely resist a cheap shot but I hope the following adds a bit more to the debate.

Organising stuff with other people is hard. The internet makes it easier, but creates its own problems. People just won’t do what they’re told or think what we want them to think. Everyone wants a say and sometimes the noisiest ones can’t or won’t contribute in any other way. They won’t listen to our carefully crafted messages and they read all sorts of darkness into what we’ve written which says more about them than us.

Welcome to being human! We (all of us) try our best, we get booed, we go home and cry, we get up and try again. I hate this, and I’m trying to get better at dealing with it, but I don’t think there are other ways. We also (all of us) see other people doing things we don’t like, throw out some comment and get on with our lives, unaware of the turmoil we’ve created in someone else. I hate this too and I’m trying to get better at it, but I don’t think there’s another way.

Here’s a pattern: a bunch of people get together to make something happen. No money changes hands, everything’s done as a favour because we all want it to happen. We call in favours – burn our social capital because we know that by doing so we’re creating more. Costs are ruthlessly minimised – we get a venue for free in return for the venue owner being teased mercilessly but gratefully as a “sponsor” and “corporate stooge”, someone who’s had a good run recently might pay for the coffee and biscuits, or else we break down the costs into tiny bits between loads of sponsors so that nobody feels like they’ve paid so much that they need to get their money’s worth. The event’s a great laugh – everyone turns up early to set things up, we all muck in with everything – if anything there are too many people chasing too few little jobs to do. We have some really interesting discussions, demonstrations, questions asked, a little bit of shouting and then we’re all tidying up, leaving the place better than how we found it, maintaining good relations with the folk who gave it for free. We’re all in it together, boundaries melt away. Viva la revolution!

It’s so good that everyone wants to do it again. Seriously, this is amazing – we are so starved of this kind of interaction, the conversation, the common cause, the burdens shared. So, who’s up for organising the next one? Everyone! Yay! Here we go again. And then the discussions start: “You know, last time was great, but I felt… XXXX so maybe this time we should YYYY”, and so on. Before long, we’ve got a list of things we want to do differently next time – one meeting later that has become a list of things we *have* to do differently next time. Still it all goes beautifully again, although some of the things on our list did push the costs up, we found sponsors who wanted to be associated with this cool thing we’re doing to be very happy to pay up. This venue even has its own cleaners, so we don’t need to clear up after ourselves, we can just get down the pub to carry on talking. Oh and we really need to keep doing this – it’s great.

Next time it’s starts to get even harder – some of the complications we introduced last time have become this time’s problems to be solved. Other complications are now hard and fast rules – “the way we do things around here”. We have more potential sponsors than we know what to do with. Since we’ve got the sponsorship money we ought to spend it. And if people are sponsoring, surely it’s fair that they get more out of it than being teased by whoever’s introducing the day. If everyone can and should pitch something, surely that goes for sponsors too, as long as they don’t get too salesman-y. Meanwhile tensions are arising: “We’re getting a bit clique-y, we’ve had some of the same people every time and I’ve seen them at other events. We need new blood to keep the conversations and thinking fresh.”, “All these freelancers keep coming and they get work out of it, have you seen some of their day-rates??”, “I’d love to take part in the organisation, but I can’t afford to – it’s OK for people with jobs who convince their managers that it’s a development opportunity for them – and have you seen some of their salaries and bonuses??”, “Last time, I couldn’t get away from people trying to sell me stuff.”, “Last time, I couldn’t get away from people trying to pick my brains for free.”

All valid, all actual things I’ve heard people say. I’m not saying that everything I’ve said applies to #localgovcamp just that the dynamics follow a pattern that I’ve observed in many self-organising groups. Over time the “organisers” tend to be people who’s time is paid for one way or another, most of those people in public services tend to be working in a corporatised environment and are steeped in the ways of doing things by management rather than participation. The bootstrappers drift away. Again, not pointing fingers, just noting a pattern.

So what do you do? How do we stop that happening? I don’t think we can stop it, but we can be ready for these issues to come up and deal with them as they arise. We need to let go of our bureaucratic sides and embrace the bootstrappers we started out as. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions:

  • Keep it simple. No… simpler than that. No, really, ask yourself if this extra thing you’re bolting onto “a bunch of people getting together to organise their own conference” is really, vitally needed or is just making things easier for you, today, two months before the event. Disruption’s great, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • Don’t do anything that reduces diversity of thought. Diversity isn’t just the tick-box externalities kind – you might occasionally get diverse thinking from middle-aged white men (assuming they’re not snoozing) – but also invite more people from diverse backgrounds, encourage them to come along and if you notice that the same old white blokes are dominating in the room, deal with it there and then. I know that’s harder to implement than setting up a quota or making the people you think have money pay to come but I don’t think either of those is going to solve it.

  • Be especially careful when you’re taking on something that others have left fallow. Work harder than ever to include members of the original community and try to understand the many reasons why interest waned or else change the name and be clear that you’re doing something completely different.

  • Make decisions in public – use a wiki or some other collaboration tool to document the who, what, when and why of decision-making. Publicise the hell out of this, encourage participation in every stage of the process. And don’t let that mean that you wrap up everything in weasel words like most business or council minute-taking – use the tools we’ve got to get people involved.

  • Lighten up, baby! :) Man! I’m definitely not worth getting your knickers in a twist about and neither are “they”.

I'm the founder of the Tuttle Club and fascinated by organisation. I enjoy making social art and building communities, if you'd like some help from me feel free to e-mail me: Lloyd dot Davis at Gmail dot Com or call +44 (0)79191 82825


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