All posts by Lloyd Davis

weeknotes 02/2020

I started working as Community Worker at Guildford United Reformed Church in the middle of last November.  It was fun trying to find my feet working in a church for the first time in the weeks running up to Christmas.  I’ve settled into a bit more of a routine now and started writing weeknotes, primarily for the members of the church to know what I’m up to and what I’m thinking about.  But I’m going to share them here too (hopefully earlier than Tuesday in future!) for you, the readers of ye olde perficked patthe weblogge, whose thinking continues to help make my thinking.

Weeknotes for week 2 of 2020

A brief summary of the week beginning 13th January – I aim for brevity but that can end up opaque, so if there’s anything you want to understand better, please do send me a message or pop in and see me at the church. I’m mostly here weekday mornings.

  • I like to start the week with my friends from the Bowls Club who come in on Monday morning to play Rummikub or Scrabble. There’s always room for more, especially for keen Scrabble players, and I’m sure we could make room for other games if there was enough demand. Bowls proper happens on Thursday mornings in the hall, regularly attracting at least a dozen players.
  • I took part in an Older People’s Network meeting organised by Voluntary Action South West Surrey. Very interesting for me to see how many other people are wrestling with similar issues and heartening to know that there are lots of potential collaborations we could do.
  • I’m starting to think about how to build further on some of the things we do and how we know that we’re doing the right things as well as doing things right. I’m looking at all of the activities and trying to see how they could be even better, as well as building some rigour into how we assess the success of activities. I like to frame that as “what’s the best that this group could possibly be?” to stretch our imaginations about what can be achieved, even if we never quite reach perfection!
  • I spent Saturday in Safeguarding Training, thinking about ensuring the well-being of all the people who use the church. While not wanting to drown myself and others in paperwork, there are definitely things we could be more clear about and be better at including it in the process we go through whenever we set something new up.
  • This Sunday was Church Meeting, which is a great chance for me to see people from the congregation that I might not get much time with in the day to day work. We had a very interesting discussion about being a more eco-friendly church and this is a strong theme in the work I want to do. I believe it can be an important bridge, especially between the generations. The challenge is to create opportunities for us to do our bit on climate change without pushing all the work onto members and volunteers who already have more than enough to do. So I’ll be thinking creatively about how we collaborate with others and bring new people in to help around this important issue.

Guildford Anti-Flood

imag0815

On Saturday afternoon, the weir and footbridge on the River Wey just upstream from the Millmead Lock collapsed. It’s a popular place for people to stroll at the weekend, so it’s not surprising that there was someone on the bridge at the time and given it’s 2019, equally unsurprising that they managed to shoot some video of it!

Guildford has a long history of water issues where the river flows through the town, but usually the problem is flooding. The management of the levels at the moment is impressive. There was a blip at the measuring station (the map hints that it’s in between the Town Bridge and Bridge Street in that bit by the YMCA) soon after the bridge went, but nowhere near “minor” flooding levels.

screenshot-2019-11-03-at-13.47.50

The river/canal on the lock side of the weir has drained to very low levels. Past the weir is the lock and then an offshoot that goes round and pools on the other side of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. There’s also a Thames Water station next to the lock but I’ve never known what actually goes on there! The stretch of water directly affected is between St Catherine’s Lock, upstream and to the South and Millmead Lock which is near the town centre.

I first heard about it when I walked home from town on Saturday evening and saw that the area from the footbridges was taped off. It looks like that’s been relaxed now and people are able to get as close as a yard or so from the edge but there’s protective fencing.

imag0810

I went out for a walk today, joining the river at the bottom of Ferry Lane. The water level is much lower here. Usually that pipe is completely submerged. I took this picture from the water’s edge which is about ten feet further out than usual. I had a wander round and picked up a few bits of old broken, coloured glass. It’s remarkable (people are remarking on it everywhere) how little rubbish there is to be seen. I assume that this stretch has been cleaned out in the last thirty years. I never used to walk up this far when I lived in Guildford in the eighties.

imag0794

I walked upstream. Nothing I could see near the “Lord of the Rings” bridge encouraged me any more to jump in off there in the summer like the crazy kids do. There are a few pipes running water off the surrounding meadows which I didn’t know about before. And many of the trees on the opposite bank have their root systems exposed. The levels rise gently as you get nearer the lock but there’s lots of mud to be seen. I run along here regularly and it’s very odd to see how much higher the footpath is than the top of the water now.

imag0806

At St Catherine’s Lock, the lock is closed but the weir/sluice gates next to it are wide open and the water is rushing through. On the upstream side of the lock the river is full but not near flooding levels. I guess the lengthsmen along here are praying for no more rain for a bit.

I walked back again and towards town. A couple of helpful people told me you can’t get into town that way (not entirely true, you can take the footbridge by the Rowing Club and walk in that way). But I was more interested in the site of the drama. Once past the other weir (by the Rowing Club) the water levels drop dramatically, it looks like a dried up creek. There’s police tape across the path next to the fallen bridge, but it’s not blocked off completely and there were a few people down on the bit below the weir (where the picnic tables are) having a closer look.

A chap in hi-vis said to us “if you go up there, don’t go too close to the edge, you’ll see where it’s crumbling”. Which I took as implicit “permission” to go up there to the other side of the fence. I went as far as I thought was sensible. There are big cracks in the footpath. Another guy walked straight past me and went right up to the edge. At your own risk I suppose, but I think he went too close.

imag0816

The speculation on the river bank was about the ownership of the weir and therefore the responsibility for rebuilding. One voice said that it had been there since before 1900. Is is the National Trust, Environment Agency, Thames Water or Guildford Borough Council who will be responsible? Somebody must be… There were motorised gates on the weir which must have belonged to someone – you’d think that would point clearly to who should rebuild, but with these things that have evolved over many years, there’s no simple logic to it.

In any case there’s not going to be a clear way across there for a while, especially if we have a hard winter.

Redecentralize Conference

IMAG0768

I helped run the Redecentralize 2019 unconference in London last Friday.

“Everyone wants to know what happened, but nobody wants to write a report” is an exaggerated version of a familiar refrain at unconferences.  We used etherpads for people to be able make contemporaneous notes (although that was minorly scuppered by poor WiFi access).  So far, nearly a week later, we have 9 reports out of 26 sessions called.  That’s about one in three.  There’s an index of all the sessions called so you can see the range of conversations we had.

So far I’ve seen blog posts from Tantek Çelik and Piper Haywood.

The #redecentralize tag seems to pick up the most from Twitter but #rdc19 was also used.

Ryan put some sterling work into capturing what he could for live streamed video

If you were there and you haven’t blogged about it or added your thoughts to the notes, it’s never too late!

Overall, my take was that interoperability is seen as a more important focus than decentralization for its own sake.  There were conversations about standards, models, public policy and UX patterns.  There was concern in the room about how to deal with personal and group abuse effectively.  There was a healthy mix of light-hearted joking and serious talk about important issues.

There was also a pad of sign-ups to give you an idea of the sorts of people who came.

Back to the beginning

I’ve spent some time this afternoon working out where some of my earliest stuff on the web is.  It’s easy to forget now what it was like, at the turn of the century, to get a web site up and write stuff to it.

The Wayback Machine is a great help, but the archiving runs out for me around the middle of 2002.  My blogger.com profile says I joined that service in February of that year, but the first actual blogpost I can find is from Wednesday, April 23, 2003 .  I kinda remember that there were other posts on that blog – I remember signing up for Blogger in the internet cafe that used to be by Victoria Station (was it easyinternet?).  There’s a whole post to be written about why I called it “Living Dangerously” and there’s no reference to my name beyond my initials.  And I started writing and then deleted everything a few times before that April 2003 post.  There might have been more live at that time, but that’s the earliest one that was crawled.

Before that I seem to have tried out using ntlworld’s homepages as early as August 2002 (that’s who we had broadband from) but there’s nothing there except “My site is being overhauled”.

I must look up when I registered lloyddavis.co.uk – the earliest crawl is May 2002 and that points to pages that were on chilly-hippo.co.uk which provided free webspace.  Even though I had a permanent job at this point with pension and everything, I didn’t like the idea of paying for hosting!

In the period before this, from 1996, I didn’t feel able, as a public servant, to be running my own website and I think my contributions might be limited to things on mailing lists.

Until 1996 I did have a homepage on the University of Surrey Maths & Computing Sciences web-server, but I haven’t been able to retrieve anything from there yet.

 

Something to fall back on

When I was in the Sixth Form and applying for drama degrees, my headmaster invited me in for a chat one day.  He very much wanted to impress on me the folly of relying on the arts for a career.  Little did he know at the time that I was doing so little work on my A-levels that I wouldn’t have the grades to meet the offers I’d already got, let alone anything more academically stringent.

He felt (it was it first year there, he didn’t know me very well) I should have “something to fall back on”, do some acting while studying by all means, but do my degree in Modern Languages or Classics and then I’d have “another string to your bow”.  As you can tell, he wasn’t a very creative man himself, having used the two top clichés for headmasters wanting to discourage young artists.  I thought he was wrong then and I think he is now.  Having something to fall back on is a great strategy, but the something you fall back on needs to be something that won’t make you want to kill yourself!

I was thinking about this because I’ve recently been working on rebooting my facilitation practice.  I’ve had a lazy old time this year, I’ve done some nice work on unconferences for Mattereum and the OU and I organised my own SteemCampUK in April but this year I’ve mostly been writing (cough or thinking about writing) and getting a feel for the vibe in Guildford.  I realised that the way I think about my facilitation practice has been as a way of doing social art and as such it has tended to be at the edge and that tends to mean (I don’t think this is right by the way, but it’s how it is) Open Space with people who are pushing their own thinking to the edges.

And there’s just not enough of that to keep me stimulated.  I haven’t been turning down “ordinary” meeting work, but I’ve cultivated the stuff that’s more edgy.  And since I let go of Tuttle, that’s cut me off from all but a few (lovely, but few) people.  So some more structured, pre-planned, easier to sell to higher-ups, possibly with an explicit preferred outcome (!) is what I’m limbering up to fall back on (does that work?)

That means I’m looking at how I can get back to helping more people with more ordinary, everyday tasks of getting stuff done together.  Just being helpful again, not pushing people to their limits, but holding space for them to move forward in whatever it is that they’re trying to do.  That’s what I do well.  Give me a shout if I can help you.

One way to get people in

animation2

It’s the time of year that without cultural cues like sweet sticky chocolately smells or repetitive music from (mostly) happy times in our childhood, we’d stay at home.  But that would be derelicting our civic duty to shop and engage with our favourite brands downtown!

So someone hires the chocolate peanut man and pays the PRS for tunes and erects a great massive lit-up billboard to help spread the word about the SHINY LIGHTS that will now be twinkling above Guildford High Street until well after Santa’ been.  Bring the people out of their caves.  Lure them with lights and music and chocolate, because the machine needs to be fed!

It’s an important part of following the money – who pays for the lights?  Who pays for the publicity around the lights?  Why is it so important for people to keep shopping? What would happen if they didn’t?  What is the payoff to retailers of having an intense commercial season like this?  What are the costs to people?  What are the costs to the environment?   Why the appeal to charity?  Some of these questions are easy to answer, some of them are a bit more meaty.  All of them lead to further questions.

keep building the web

Look, it’s only been twenty-five years we’ve had this thing, it takes time to understand how it works over longer time periods.

I know that for some people the web is over, blogs are over, because FB is where everyone’s talking. And I do know a lot of people who seem to spend a lot of time posting stuff there. And every now and then I’m one of those people, but even if it’s a walled garden bit of the web, a machine that tries desperately to convince you that there’s nothing better than feeding the innocent little machine, it’s still part of the web and it relies on there being a web. OK that’s not a good reason to keep building the web, but that’s what blogging’s like, you start off making one argument and find you’re mildly contradicting yourself by the end of the second paragraph.

I feel the pull of FB, the desire for company and recognition and the admiration of my peers, the opportunity to make a fool of myself and make fun of some of the things that I take too seriously, the connection with members of my family and old old friends whom I couldn’t bear to talk to on the phone this often, but whose clunky little copypasta warms my heart a little, because it shows they care.

Resistance to the machine means building the web, the organic, flexible, super-linky web. It doesn’t have to be full-on indieweb but I think that hypertext is what I’m missing most.  It’s the links that matter, that’s why it’s really anti the FB experience to have more than one link per post. The links send people away and as a wise old creator of RSS once said “People come back to places that send them away.”

So for now I’m going to try practicing something new.  Every time I feel like sticking something on FB or even Twitter, I will try to put that something here instead.  Except when I forget – I’m still not perfect but I intend to keep adding value to this network.

How do you add value to a network?  You build new nodes and create links between existing nodes.  A link on my blog is a node and a link to another, that’s how the web survives.

Here’s a little example that predates my new resolution by a matter of minutes:

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 10.43.43

Or as we say around here in slimmed-down, minimalist hypertext land:

It’s been bloody ages!