All posts by Lloyd Davis

Vlog 161116 – Part 1 – Inspiration

I went to the London Bloggers Meetup last night for the first time in a while. It was on video-blogging and as well as hearing from and meeting some interesting people, it helped me get a few ideas about my own work slotted into place. In particular it inspired me to do more of the journaling type, this is me, here and now and what I think podcast/vlog. The first one is in the works (I went for a walk and talked into the camera, that’s my style) – I’m going to try to cut it down to something watchable today and to make it a regular feature of my Steemit output. You can thank/blame Andy Bargery who runs LBM.

I went out and realised there was far more I wanted to say than could be squeezed into a three or four minute video. So I’ve still got a couple more of these in the can and I’ll work out how to release them without overwhelming you!

I realised today how awkward it feels to me to talk about inspiration – I’m always flattered and pleased when people say I’ve inspired them, but I don’t want to admit it works the other way too.

Those of you who’ve only seen me up against my living room wall with a ukulele in my hand will be gratified to see that I can move about and that I’m lucky enough to live in a lovely place (right next to the municipal tip recycling facility).

Sorry about the wind (meteorological not flatulent)

Feedback, please!


This post was originally published on Steemit a blockchain-based blogging platform that provides a micro-payment environment for authors and content-creators. If you’d like to support my work (and perhaps get paid for your own writing), pop over there, sign up, say hello and upvote my posts!

The Enemy Within

I’ve been talking about the “enemy within” since the time of the Brexit vote but the same thing applies to the current themes in American politics. My first reaction to these authoritarian men who whip up populist support at the cost of anyone who’s a little bit different is anger and hatred. And then I realise that I’m falling into the same trap. The trick I’ve learned is to acknowledge and accept that I’m just the same in some ways, that I’m equally capable of being hateful, divisive and fearful but one day at a time, I try to be a better person than that. If I can love and accept the enemy within and turn him into art, I reduce the power of the enemy without to disturb my peace. That’s the theory anyway.

This song came to me while walking down Pentonville Road this afternoon. I was out for a walk in Islington and passed by Joseph Grimaldi’s grave. I thought about writing a song called “They’ve put a clown in the White House” but the muse nudged that one aside for another day and you’ve got this instead. People talk about the muse whispering in your ear, it really was just like that, I couldn’t wait to sit down and write it out and record it the old cowboy tune “Red River Valley”.

Let’s just keep breathing and loving each other as well as we can.

Steem Blogging For Fun and Profit

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 21.04.45
Image from SteemDB another great tool from @jesta

I’m just looking at my first proper month of Steemit payments – it took me about a month to get used to the place and to get a feel for what works best (just a feel mind you, it’s still emerging). It also took time to gain some influence and get known by a few people. The #openmic community, coralled by @luzcypher and @pfunk did a lot to help me get more of an audience and encourage me to keep trying different stuff. I’m also beginning to build relationships with the artist/collaboration community especially since @merej99 inspired the saga Ballad of Ned’s Head.

The thing about Steem-based currency is that it feels like Monopoly money when you’re giving it away but it feels like real money when you receive it.

I’ve been blogging for a long time now (about fifteen years since I first typed shit in a text box and pressed “post”) and I’ve grown up with the idea that you make money “because of” blogging not directly through it. Well that’s changed with Steemit – I expect to still derive some income and other benefits “because of” Steemit but I’m also drawing down actual pounds sterling that my wife recognises as real income.

I drew down £79.32 during the month of October. Now if someone had said to me “Dear Lloyd, we love your blogging so much that we’d like you to write for us a couple of times a day, about whatever you feel like and we’ll pay you £80 a month after the first month.” I’d have a pretty short, concise and potentially offensive answer ready for them. But because I’ve chosen to do it myself and I don’t feel like I’m beholden to anybody, and because I’ve always been told “because of” not “for” I’m over the moon that I’m seeing shekels pop up in my bank account.

For those not familiar with the process, you get paid within 24-36 hours of posting and the amount depends on lots of things but mostly the number of votes you get, the influence of those voting for you, and what other good content is getting paid out on in the same period (I don’t know how much this last one affects things, I guess it must, but I haven’t seen any analysis). Anyway this isn’t an Amazon or YouTube “oh you get paid after one month of sales and only if you exceed a total of £x” – it’s actual monopoly money even in small amounts.

One of the downsides is that the whole system is complex and it keeps changing (yes that’s two downsides but they go together nicely) – so for example, for a while we were getting paid in a mix of tokens – Steem and Steem-backed Dollars (SBD) (which are liquid) and Steem Power (SP) which can only be “powered down” over two years. Then the SBD supply dried up and now we just see Steem and SP and it’s unpredictable how much you’re going to see until the moment you get paid (you can make a good estimate, but rarely spot on). So then to turn your Steem into Pounds you will have to go through a third currency (probably bitcoin) and the rates of Steem/BTC and BTC/£ can fluctuate quite a lot. Also all prices on the site and supporting sites in the ecosystem (e.g. steemstats by @jesta) are in US$ so you have to bear in mind the USD/GBP volatility too (thanks Brexit!). But mostly I ignore all this mental arithmetic nonsense and get on with writing and playing.

I do acknowledge that I’m privileged – I had a good, British education. I’m a native English speaker and writer with years of experience of crafting words both online and off- I also don’t have a day job, by which I mean I don’t have to be somewhere chained to a desk from 9am to 5pm with someone watching my every move. And I’ve been practicing my ukulele and singing for many years.

Nonetheless it’s got me going. I’ve written three songs in the last few weeks, two of which have been sitting in notebooks for years not ever quite emerging. I’ve had lots of fun playing for people and I’ve made some new pals. That’s the thing that continues no matter whether this whole thing is still here next week, the relationships we build can be transferred over into other places, the community exists regardless. My goal for the next couple of months is to pull some of the people whose work and company I’ve enjoyed in previous online communities in here to get them doing cool stuff and getting paid for it too. If you know me from somewhere else and you’re interested let me know before I start pestering you myself.

You can sign up for Steemit here and you’ll get a small amount of Steem Power to get you going.

And you can read this post there too.

Github for other creative collaborations

PLATE issues

As a person who enjoys programming and programming culture (I can’t call myself a programmer anymore) I love github. It’s amazing to me that open source software has taken such a hold on imaginations that there’s this open versioning system that allows you not only to read other people’s code but to report issues, suggest amendments and even re-use the code or start a whole new project based on it (subject to the licensing terms of course).

I’ve been ruminating for a while on hacking this infrastructure to allow creative collaboration on materials other than code. What would it look like if the end product of a project weren’t a program or a web app but a book or a movie? How could you get people working on books and movies in the same way as people work on open-source software? And if you couldn’t, I mean if it just wouldn’t work, then why would that be? What is so different about the movie or book product that makes it incompatible with the git/github environment? Are there better environments, ie more suitable to traditional writing or film-making? Or is there a new kind of book/movie/story/whatever that is enabled by this sort of collaborative environment? Who else has done anything about this already? And my standard question at the start of all projects “Why is what I’m suggesting dangerously wrong and how are you going to stop me?”

I’ve started working on a few projects to open these questions up. Two of them are my travels across the USA – Tuttle2Texas took place in March 2010 and consisted of a few Tuttlers travelling by rail from Boston to Austin and I then went on to Los Angeles. Please Look After This Englishman (PLATE) happened a year later and was me travelling through my online social network without much of a plan except to arrive in San Francisco on March 1st and leave from NYC on March 30th. Both projects were heavily blogged and tweeted, there are photos galore on Flickr and some bits of video that I shot. I wrote a summary of the first trip in daily instalments (I’ve had a go at doing it here too, but it doesn’t inspire me so much) and I made a one-man show out of the second trip and an e-book out of the blog. I probably have notes and artefacts from both trips hanging around in archive boxes or plastic bags in someone’s garage or something. I’m also starting a new project – Wood Lane with a series of video clips and some writing. This differs from the others in that it’s been conceived from the start as something that would live and evolve on github from the start.

I’m looking at what products I might make out of the material. You might look at that too – what could you do yourself or how could you help shape what I’m doing? People like products, packages, ways of bundling things together in ways that make them look like other things. But you might have an idea for something else.

These are the aspects of github that I think could be useful to us as potential collaborators (there may be more):

Issues

This, for me, is the place to discuss what’s wrong with the products so far. Anyone can raise an issue and anyone can act on them. You’ll see that on the PLATE repo I’ve raised a few issues as “enhancements” ie suggestions for the next version. Other issue labels are “bug”, “question” and “help wanted” I’d love you to raise issues.

Pull Requests

What does this mean in the context of a non-code-based project? I think it means you’ve come up with something that you think should be integrated into the core project. A pull request gives us an opportunity to discuss that and decide whether that’s something I want to do as the core artist or whether you should fork and create your own.

Fork

A fork might come up because we decide to as a result of a pull request, but you might also just want to use my material as a jumping off point for your own version. Or to incorporate some of the material into another project. I’d see that as a fork – it’s a way of keeping track of what derivative works there may be.

Wiki

I wrote a home wiki page for PLATE and then forgot about it! I suppose wiki pages could be anything – profiles of contributors, ideas for new ways of interpreting the material, just a collaborative writing space that’s directly linked to the code and the rest of the project, a project blog – all of these, you’re welcome to try new stuff!

Dive in and get involved

Don’t let ignorance of git or github (or of anything really) stand in your way. If you’re interested we can overcome all that. Let’s see if we can create something interesting together.

So yeah, if you have any questions, do comment here (wherever you find this), but I’d rather you dived in and made a wiki page or raised an issue on the appropriate repository!

Listening within as well as without

While listening to Desert Island Discs

Listen within, listen within.
Practice it on the outside then take it closer and then deep within you.
Bring it into your heart.

There’s a lot of talk about listening at the moment. I think a lot of people here got hit with it over Brexit, we realised that there was a whole bunch of people in this country who don’t feel listened to, and they’re angry about it. One hears similar things from the Trump supporters in the USA. My friend Maggie Sawkins is developing work out of her long experience of listening in the mediation process, Sofia Bustamente is holding a number of “Listening Cafés” (I went to one, it was great, you should too if you can find one near you). There’s also a bit in my walking in the woods video about active listening, listening as a meditation. It’s all part of the same thing.

The insight I’ve had lately is that some people need to be helped to move beyond listening as transmission or rather reception of information and towards something about being human and being one with each other. That’s the sort of beautiful awakening that starts when you work with someone on this or they walk into a Listening Café. They realise there’s more to this activity than receiving information, there’s a whole physical experience that we’re used to denying and missing out on and only doing on the surface. We get to listen to someone else deeply and realise we could be doing this more, maybe not all the time, but that it’s a thing you can do and it would have value if only because it feels really good and connects you to something that you heartily miss.

The next level is starting to realise that you don’t need someone else in the room. That actually you can start practicing this with yourself because there are plenty of unlistened to, unheard voices within you, all clamouring for attention because they’ve been ignored for many decades. Day in, day out, they just chat away but you’ve learned to put the outside world first. Even though they’re singing beautiful little songs or imagining that cloud is a spacecow with wings, or telling you that you’re lovely and much loved, they’re inside and we’ve told ourselves that that means “not real” and so not to be listened to.

What if they were the most real? What if they were your connection to what is most real and true about you? Yes, silly sometimes, childish and childlike, fantasy spinning and extravagant but also innocent, trusting, loving, simple and true.

So then what happens when you start actively listening to them? Listening to the silence before they speak. Listening by feeling something in your heart softening and peeking out from beneath that boulder that you thought you’d squished them under. What do they say today? Listen, listen to every word until they’re finished. Write it down if you need to. After all, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now and thank you for listening this far.

A big, grown-up and slightly cross and frustrated part of me is afraid of all this. This part is habitually afraid. He says “Yes yes, I heard you, you are completely safe, your fears are all lies, yes I get that”. He does get it, but there is a but… “But today we need to earn at least £100 and the same tomorrow and tomorrow. That’s an agreement we’ve made with the world to keep going and bring in money in order for us to live here in the way that we’ve chosen.”

Yes. That’s true, we do have an agreement and we will keep to it the best we can but we have other agreements in place that also need to be honoured. The mistake is to put either of these voices in complete charge. My role listening within is just like the one I play in the outside world (that place where you see me “facilitating group processes” or “making social art”). It means listening to everyone and orchestrating the different abilities and needs for an outcome. That way we can satisfy everyone’s needs for expression and to be heard and to be part of the whole group. So today when I hear the money voice, I call him my Finance Director in loving tribute to all those accountants behind whose backs I’ve cursed bitterly. I love and accept the Finance Director as a part of my team, I don’t hush him, I don’t push him away, I just listen and hear and accept what he has to say. And I call on all of me to see what we can do together. Not because the finance is the most important thing, but because it’s an important thing among many others.

Anyway, this is my thing. This is what I do for myself and I can help you do it for yourself too. If you like it you can just take it and enjoy for itself, but it may also be a signpost to something in you that needs attention, something that I can help with and something that you might so appreciate that you would reward me with tokens of that inner appreciation you feel. The sorts of tokens, in case it’s not clear, that are also appreciated widely in banks and stores and government offices. Something like that would be peachy.

Twelve Years A Blogger

It’s blogiversary time again.  It’s now twelve years since I started writing here.  Back in 2004 it seemed really important to have my own place to write.  That was because the whole idea of writing on the internet or through the internet was still quite new to me.  I’d been corporatized for quite a while and had to ask for permission to do so much and now here I was able to not only own my own domain, but set up some software on it and use it to publish my own writing without anyone’s permission but my own.  I was also approaching 40.  I’ve seen a few people lately turn 40 themselves and have been glad to be able to truthfully say “pretty much everything you know me for, I did after I was 40″

Now of course, I can do this everywhere and so can you.  There’s lots of places you can read me and lots of places I can put my stuff, but I think it’s important to recognise and be grateful for the very fact that we can do this so easily and have it presented here as it’s intended, not as some algorithm would have it arranged.

It all took off very quickly, within weeks I was out meeting other bloggers, becoming part of the scene, and within a few months, I was beginning to podcast too.  It’s seems very odd to me now that there was a time when the very act of doing it, of writing about my odd little life and talking into a recording machine while I wandered around London, was so novel that it got me paid work.

There have been times when I’ve written every day and there have been times when it’s been sparser but I’ve always felt I had this place to come back to and it’s really great to be able to see twelve years of archives built up.  Well OK, there are also some squee-making embarrassing bits but mostly I love what I’ve made here and the affordances it has allowed me.  Thanks for being around.

Photo: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Podcaster

Come Steem with me!

I’ve been playing for the last few days with a new-ish blogging, social-networking, blockchain platform called Steemit.

Go ahead, join up (you can use your FB credentials) and right now, it looks like you get $8 worth of Steem Power (and I only got $3 when I joined!)

If you do, please follow me, upvote on my pictures post and leave a comment!

It’s not the complete future of blogging and social networking.  And it’s not even the complete future of blockchain incentivised micropayments either.  But it’s interesting to see (and speculate on) how a tipping incentive associated with posting, upvoting and commenting can work – both in terms of the actual payments made (very small!) and the effect that has on you to keep going, or not.

Of course, there’s a white paper but yeah, the currency and its derivatives are complex – I’ve given up for now on completely understanding how everything relates, what the numbers actually mean and just seeing what happens if I keep playing the game.  Cos you can just use it as a blog where most of the other users are libertarian, crypto-anarchist/capitalists with a few cosplayers and furries mixed in.

See you there, Steem-mates!