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I’m feeling a bit ranty this morning. Crazy Scottish lady is rising a little close to the surface.

I’ve been reading articles (old and new) and watching videos (old and new) this week which are replaying familiar EdTech tropes and I’m sick of it. I’m not going to quote anything directly here because I have no interest in fighting with or offending anyone. Rather I’m going to rant and people can take offence broadly. Sorry in advance. I love you all.

A summary of what is annoying me goes a bit like this:

VLEs are bad because: vendors, surveillance, no access after courses finish, no access for academics to each other’s work. It’s a closed system. It’s a waste of student time. If only we could all just use WordPress instead (insert other variants on the theme of open technologies).

“IT” run our stuff and they don’t understand. Snake oil salesmen charm our senior management. If only they knew what we know.

Learning analytics are bad, evil. Algorithms, surveillance, surveillance capitalism.

Repeat the above for AI and automation, add in something about loss of teacher agency too.

Fundamentally I am getting cross because whilst I see genuine issues and *genuine* concern, I also think that I see a quite a lot of lack of agency and responsibility. Not across the board, but enough to piss* me off.

I completely get that some of what I’m reading is from people who have little agency or traction in their particular EdTech setting. Some of what I want to rant about requires an amount of privilege to action. That I can even have a wee rant on my blog is privilege, however: Some of the people I’ve been reading are quite senior in their organisations or have significant platforms; there is always *something* that can be done, no matter how small.

Don’t just complain that this is the nature of the IT / the approach of senior management / the power of big vendors (don’t not complain though!). Things are not perfect by a country mile, but a whole lot of this is about local institutional choices and culture, and until that changes, institutions are going to keep investing in and implementing technologies in the same low denominator, low trust, uncritical way.

I don’t have all the answers. I’m
not sure anyone does, but I can tell you what I believe. If you want to resist, you can do worse than to start occupying territory. Institutions are fundamentally collections of people, not abstract concepts. Culture is not immutable.

Get to know your IT colleagues. They are on the same below-industry-salary as you because mostly they give a damn about the same things as you. Talk about the “virtual team” who make our EdTech activities doable. Include them where you can in your work, ask to be included in theirs. Prove that together you can do more interesting things. Demonstrate the value of working closely to the institution by talking about the great things you achieve together. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Remember that at the point you advocate technological solutions (WordPress etc) you are “IT” too. This learning technologist / IT bullshit* is a false divide. If there are big divisions between your job functions this is organisational culture in your institution, or in your head.

Find out who your data protection or legal people are. Learn from them. Implement their best practices in whatever small way you can. Permission to use data, record keeping, contractual negotiations, bringing them into conversations with suppliers, consent forms. Arm yourself with whatever weapons you can find in this area. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Do the same for data architects. If roles like data stewards, data owners etc are defined in your organisation then try make sure someone with EdTech awareness is the owner for things like VLE activity data. It might even be something you need to do. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Get to know your procurement people. Learn about what they do. Understand better how to use procurement processes to your advantage. Once the ink is dry on a contract it’s all over. Give thanks privately and publicly.

There’s probably lots more to add here, the main point is start always by holding your own internal setup and choices to account, and being as active a participant in those processes as you can, because that’s something you can and should influence. If our field is as important, critical and vital as we think it is, then be prepared to get into the trenches.

This is dirty, dull work. There are no prizes, no conference presentations, no sexy innovation projects in this space. But it has integrity.

Also do this work with grace. Do it without aggression, do it respectfully even when you deeply disagree. If you are genuinely motivated by improvement then don’t do this work by being an asshole* to people. Even EdTech vendors.

This is a rant btw. So it doesn’t have coherence, you will be able to pick holes in it, I probably have contradicted myself. I don’t care. It’s not important. What is important is that we all do something that is doable in our context to move forwards. There is no magic bullet here. Just hard work. Get on with it. And be proud of it too.

* don’t be a potty mouth like me either.

Week beginning 27 November 2017⤴

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  • Submit proposal to OER18 based on Open to All blog post.
  • Talk to colleagues about a Festival of Creative Learning Week vox-pops session.
  • Discuss API access to our media servers for search indexing videos as part of a new University search engine project. Can we have a Creative Commons filter on the search please? Need data protocol forms filled out.
  • Review the beginnings of a video and graphic design style guide for new online content.
  • Review Web Governance vision and objectives with Colan ahead of workshop later in the week.
  • Discuss whether we should extent the coaching / feedback report we built for QMP into something that all users can have access to. Following up with potential users and guage interest.


  • Meet with project team for Notifications project – API access to Learn for Announcements data and permission to use data protocol to be taken forward.
  • Run to IAD and review PTAS applications as part of the adjudication panel. 2 lecture recording related projects approved.
  • Meet with colleagues on Service Excellent projects to share experiences of procurement processes, and some ideas around building buy-in for their direction of travel.
  • Catch up with the team on their impressions of the Wiseflow product demo on Tuesday PM.


  • Web Governance workshops with Colan et al. Really starting to pull things together. Can see where DOOO and blogging fit within the bigger digital strategy. This is good stuff and we are getting quite excited about it. We talked a lot in my group about content design and development; the extent to which content needs to be highly design in some areas of our web estate, and the extent to which a wide variety of user generated content might be curated in other areas.
  • Met with the Surgical Sciences teams to check progress and plans on their VLE migration projects. Everyone is really very positive about the opportunities they see in coming off their bespoke platforms.
  • Implementation Steering Group for Lecture Recording Programme. Signed off briefs and scope of this stage; update on comms plan; update on rooms for the next phase from Euan. Still a lot to do and aspects like timetabling integration will be technically challenging.
  • Marc was at Sheffield Echo360 User Group – learning all about their opt-in project and timetabling integration.


  • Met Chris Cheong from RMIT for an overview of his learning analytics work. Described the Task, Test, Monitor system and how it supports student self-reflection. Some really interesting observations from this project. In terms of how students use TTM – starts as a testing system, but flips into being a diagnostic system around mid-semester as assessments kick in.
  • Whole afternoon workshop with Shane and Aaron from Pebble Learning, looking at what we want from ATLAS assessment tools for the future.



After the Wiki rush⤴

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Last Friday I led a Lost Literary Edinburgh Wikipedia editathon as part of the Being Human Festival. It focused on forgotten women authors that have been surfaced again through the enormous text mining activity that underpins the LitLong project.

“…might there be other voices to hear in the chorus? Other, less familiar stories? By letting the algorithms do the reading, we’ve tried to set that familiar narrative of Edinburgh’s literary history in the less familiar context of hundreds of other works.” (About Litlong)

Over the course of the day we had 20 participants either physically in the room, or contributing remotely (thanks @WikiWomeninRed).

Quite a few of the participants left wanting to come back and do one of our “Train the Trainer” sessions so that they can learn to run their own events. Hopefully they got a good sense of what running a training session needs to cover having seen myself and Sara Thomas deliver sessions. Ewan McAndrew has also made some great open resources available online at the TES website to support running Wikipedia training sessions and of course there’s our Wiki Basics SPLOT (which incidentally seemed to work very well – largest number of users pre-registered for an editathon ever!).

What may be less visible is some of the other work that goes on around an editathon to make it successful. So here’s a handy list:

In advance:

  1. Research. You need a list of articles to create or improve in advance of the event. Muireann Crowley did a brilliant job of pulling this information together for this editathon. This is foundational stuff – an editathon will lack focus without this.
  2. Swag. Stickers, t-shirts, bags, pens, badges, Wikipedia handouts. The infamous “Citation Needed” keyrings. A little something to take away or use as prizes.
  3. Snacks. Editing is lots of research and thinking. Tea, coffee, sweet things, fruit all keep the energy levels up.
  4. Advertising: Set up a wiki events page, whatever booking system you plan to use, and knock yourself out on social media. Use some of the research info to highlight things people could focus on in the editathon to try catch the imagination.

On the day:

  1. Tagging: Get users to write on a board which articles they are working on. As articles are created, add a template to their Talk pages to identify them as being created as part of this event. Also make sure all new user accounts created have included a template on the User page identifying them as new accounts.

    Screenshot of Litlong editathon template. No rights reserved by me.
  2. Helping: Be familiar with the main sources of information in advance – you are probably going to have to help editors find information on the day, and also answer queries about the best way to reference or cite information. If you have a friendly Librarian, get them involved in editathons if you can, because this is their super-power. You will also need to help move pages from Draft or Sandbox into the main (Article) space for new users.

After the event:

  1. Impact: Use a tool like the Outreach Dashboard to track all the pages edited and improved and do your stats to quantify the impact of the event. You may have your own reporting requirements, but it’s always good to update the Wiki events page to note the outcomes of the event.
  2. Thanking: Make up a template thanking participants for taking part and add it to the Talk page for their User profile. Use it to highlight how many pages were edited/improved/new resources added etc. Include follow on actions, sources of more information, mailing lists, related projects. Whatever you think will help participants to continue outside the editathon activity. Thank them again. Pictures of virtual snacks can be a nice idea.
  3. Aftercare: Monitor the articles created for a week or so afterwards, particularly checking the Talk page and watching for any suggestions of deletion / significant improvement required. Be prepared to put up the Wikipedia Bat Signal if that happens (aka yell for help on Twitter).

Running editathons isn’t just about generating content, it’s about building open knowledge community and capacity. Follow up is important.

My follow up after the event is to take Ewan’s template slides and adapt them for myself. They worked pretty well for me, but I need to put a little of my own voice (and bad puns) into them. I may well create an online version rather than Powerpoint slides because I’m really enjoying the SPLOTPoint format for this kind of resource. I’m reliving my late 1990s technical authoring dreams all over again….

Open for all⤴

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Another visit to my beloved Mansfield Traquair Centre this evening. 17 years on and it still takes my breath away. To have the responsibility and the stewardship of a place like this a privilege.

This evening was the Friends AGM. Formal business was blessedly succinct. A conversation between Susy Kirk and Elizabeth Cumming was delightful.

Chatting afterwards I confessed to a slight girl-crush at the moment for Dr Bendor Grosvenor.

What’s not to like about fighting for open access to the nation’s cultural heritage? The Chairman of our Board of Trustees (Dr Duncan Thomson) clearly agrees as he was one of the signatories to this letter in The Times.

This is a subject close to my own heart, and to friends in the room with me this evening. I’ve written about the Royal Hospital for Sick Children Mortuary Chapel murals before.* Many of us this evening remain concerned and worried for their future.

Fundamentally though, how do you raise awareness of the murals uncertain future when so few people know about them now?

One of the problems with public awareness is the location of the murals. They have remained largely inaccessible for over 100 years as they form an integral part of an incredibly intimate, private, and moving place. A mortuary chapel in a children’s hospital.

The most obvious way of making such a space more accessible, without being intrusive, is to make good quality images available online under open licenses. Until recently the only images that existed either belong to NHS Lothian (all rights reserved – mostly 35mm slides), or to Historic Environment Scotland (crown copyright – majority of images listed in Canmore date from 1982 and are not available online even to view).

I’m pleased to say that’s not the case any more. There are now 62 high quality images** of the murals, all available on Wikimedia Commons for immediate use under a CC-BY 4.0 license. Since initial upload they have already had their categorisation data enhanced and been linked up to Phoebe Traquair’s Wikidata profile by a keen editor (not me!).

I can already see the images appearing in Google image searches, and we know from other experiences that Wikimedia Commons is proving rich pickings for press articles.

My next steps are to complete the Wikipedia article I have been writing about the murals. Once that has been published the Google secret sauce will push it very swiftly to the top of the page rankings and the murals and their story will slowly start to become more open to all.

“What can be done, here and there, with moderate means and ordinary folk with such labour as they can spare […] open space amid the slums ” (Patrick Geddes)


* It’s worth briefly saying why these murals in particular are important and why they merit their Category A listing. They are the first mural scheme by Phoebe Anna Traquair. Traquair was a key figure in the Arts and Crafts movement in Scotland. She worked as an embroiderer, enamellist, book binder, illustrator and painter. She was the first important professional female artist in Scotland, and in recognition of this was the first female honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy. The murals are also the product of a commission by the Edinburgh Social Union, founded by Patrick Geddes. They are the sole survivor of around 20 commissions instigated by the ESU. In 1899 in a published interview, Traquair herself considered them to be her finest work.

** Honourable mention for several ladies is required here. Dr Sally Ann Huxtable of the National Museums of Scotland who recommended the superb Diane Holdsworth’s photographic skills; Diane for doing the work pro-bono; and Sorrel Cossens of NHS Lothian for facilitating access. As with Phoebe herself, women of determination can achieve great things.

Poetical escapades⤴

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I made 2 visits to Little Sparta this year.

The first was on the most glorious summers day, blue skies, bird song and the landscape in hyper-sharp technicolour. Little Sparta is best described as a garden in attack, not a rural retreat. It is the definitive work of poet and conceptual artist Ian Hamilton Finlay and over 200 works are seated within the landscape, most of which involve complex interplays of words, form and environment.


I found it quite overwhelming.

My second visit was in September, with some friends. The weather had turned, the day was more overcast and rain broke as we were leaving. I was mentally better prepared this time. We also had more time, more snacks, a better camera.


To try to write anything about the relationship between the sublime and terror, in a landscape garden filled with poem-objects based on the words and symbols of the French Revolution and the Second World War would be a level of pretension that’s beyond me.

I also can’t attempt anything about the collaborative nature of most of the pieces. Hamilton Finlay conceived, but did not create most of these works and he was scrupulous about crediting his collaborators publicly.

I can’t begin to describe my response to pieces like this as a native of the part of Scotland where our decommissioned nuclear submarine fleet lies berthed, it’s half-life slowly ticking away.

(Nuclear Sail)

I remain overwhelmed.

The best I can attempt to do is to reflect upon one piece that I spent time with on my second visit that appealed to me on a more manageable level.


“The horizontals representing the land, the verticals the sea” (Little Sparta: A Guide to the Garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay)

The nature of time at sea.
The need for time at sea.
A sundial that works neither on sea or land.
A sundial hidden under trees in a woodland glade.
A pole, but unclear whether it’s north or south.

Even the the suggestion of a fixed point on earth offers no clear perspective.

I remain overwhelmed, and not a little lost at sea.


Japanese plate⤴

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A visit to an antiques fair yesterday prompted me to finish this thought…


Japanese plate, 18th century. Called Imari-ware after the export port, but most likely made in kilns in Arita. Probably exported to Europe by a Dutch trading company in the 1700s, maybe before Chinese kilns came back into serious export production at the start of the Qing dynasty. A pretty standard object of it’s time and likely one of hundreds of thousands similar. A thing of vague origin and provenance. Now prized for it’s longevity and handmade aesthetic.

I love these objects, but I’m also very aware that the handmade artistry I so admire obfuscates the likely realities of it’s production.


Another 18th century plate, this time Chinese. This sublime scholarly landscape (there are many tropes in this image) suggests a calm artistic hand, working in peace and with the luxury of time. The reality is likely very different. I am fetishising the labour inherent in these objects.

I need to remember that “making” is culturally specific and isn’t always cool.



Disorder of the future⤴

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Some stuff went down on the internet around an op-ed that Cathy O’Neil wrote in the New York Times about algorithms and accountability. I’ve no interest in being drawn into the kick-back, but it did force me to think about the extent to which the response to this issue has to be one of civic engagement as well as academic engagement (there is plenty of academic engagement – as the kick-back evidenced in spades, but I see fewer examples of that activity translating into civic or legal activity – but maybe I’m just not looking hard enough).

This will continue to go round in my brain for a while yet, but a few interesting things that I’ve read recently are worth gathering together.

“Our data is ours, but it also is not ours. We trade it away for so much of our experience on the internet. Money from a data tax could begin to counter this trade imbalance.

The money should go toward improving privacy of our information on the internet, countering identity theft, improving connectivity and internet literacy, all causes that would help create a more equitable internet for all.”

It’s Time to Tax Companies for Using Our Personal Data (New York Times)

“The biggest problem also is that privacy and security don’t seem to be the responsibility of the manufacturer, but rather that of the consumer.”

Those New Connected Holiday Gifts May Be Spying on You!

“Digital understanding is the root of fairness — it means people can know how the technology of the internet works, it makes them aware of its power structures, and it enables them to question what these mean for their choices, rights, and lives.”

This is Digital Understanding (Doteveryone – Medium)

“Research in queer theory, race and privilege, and gender studies is exactly what is needed to advance fairness in algorithms. But this work, and the many scholars from underrepresented groups who have brought attention to these problems, have a long history of marginalization both within the academy and without.”

We’re Awake — But We’re Not At the Wheel (PERVADE – Medium)

“It should finally be noted that the nature of the data is also becoming less and less static; rather, data increasingly goes through a lifecycle in which its nature might change constantly. While the current legal system is focused on relatively static stages of data, and linked to them specific forms of protection (e.g. for personal data, sensitive data, private data, statistical data, anonymous data, non-identifying information, metadata, etc.), in reality, data go through a circular process: data is linked, aggregated and anonymized and then again de-anonymized, enriched with other data and profiles, so that it becomes personally identifying information again, and potentially even sensitive data, and is then once again pseudonymised, used for statistical analysis and group profiles, etc.”

Ten Questions for Future Regulation of Big Data: A Comparative and Empirical Legal Study (JIPITEC – Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and E-Commerce Law)

Internet Transmitted Infections – I’ve got the SPLOTS⤴

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After noodling about on my own domain a while ago with various formats, I created a real live SPLOT using the Splotpoint theme to support a participatory session that I ran, and it’s worth picking into what about it worked for me, because I think it worked on a few levels:

  1. It was a resource I could point to in advance of the event.
  2. It was my presentation slides.
  3. It was the workbook for the session.
  4. It’s the resource for participants to return to after the session.

I ran the session with Alice White. We had never met until that morning, and never run a session together before. Sharing the slides in advance with her was a way of helping us both and because all the instructions for participants were baked in, it was hopefully really clear what was going to happen.

The sequenced slides element is obviously important for me. It kept me right on the day. Plus having instructions written out clearly and simply was my aide-memoir for demoing things.

Being a web resource it was loaded up by participants there and then and used to support the activity in real time. I was expecting non-native English speakers in the audience so having instructions written down was going to be important. I have a funny accent after all. It’s was the alternative format to me talking at people, and it’s more accessible than a printed workbook as it can be resized etc.

What’s missing? Maybe the ability for participants to make their own notes as they go along. So maybe adding annotation would be the next place to go?

I got a lot of positive and generous feedback on it, not least from various Wikimedians via my colleague Ewan McAndrew. It sparked a really good conversation about simple and clear resources to support getting started with Wikipedia. What exists now is comprehensive to the extent that it’s overwhelming to the novice (we feel).

Editathons have also gotten pretty popular – so much so that we’re double booked on 24 November*. So now we’ve built a second Splotpoint site and are prepping some “Wikipedia Basics” content to support us both.

* Ewan will be leading Scottish Living Artists 2017 – A Wikipedia edit-a-thon’ in a nutshell at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh

I will be co-leading Lost Literary Edinburgh – a Wikipedia editathon as part of the Being Human Festival with Sara Thomas, Wikimedian in Residence at Scottish Library and Information Council.

MozFest Reflections⤴

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This post was also posted on the Association for Learning Technologists blog.

This year was my fourth trip to MozFest – the annual global gathering of the Mozilla Foundation. The event has been held in Ravensbourne College in London for the last 7 years and is a nine stories high extravaganza of participatory sessions and speaker talks covering hacking, making, data, digital art and culture, ethics and privacy, the open web, open science, data journalism, social justice, access and inclusion and many other things too numerous to list. This year there were 338 sessions spread across two days. The programme is available online to browse for a flavour of the sessions on offer.

Sessions take place in themed areas within the venue, with each space aligned to an area of strategic focus for Mozilla:

  • Decentralization
  • Digital Inclusion
  • Open Innovation
  • Privacy and Security
  • Web Literacy
  • Youth Zone

MozFest isn’t heavily marketed to the HE sector, and so I suspect a number of colleagues aren’t aware of it. However this event is the one that breaks me out of my Higher Education bubble and into thinking about open and the impact of the web in the broadest sense. I leave fired up and excited having learned completely new things and collected practical ideas and information that I can I contribute back into my own institution.

MozFest is also the most diverse event that I attend. Participants come from across the world and can be all ages and all languages. Although the event is conducted in English, participants are actively encouraged to flag other languages that they speak via stickers on their badges or in their session descriptions. Travel to London is surely prohibitive for many still, but there is usually better representation from the global south at this event than at any other I go to.

MozFest 17 slogan. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

Each year there’s a slightly different emphasis, and this year the overall theme was about what makes a healthy internet.

Today, the concept of Internet health reaches far beyond the realm of open source code: it’s linked to civil liberties and public policy, free expression and inclusion. Discussions about the state of the web include engineers, but now also teachers, lawmakers, community organizers and artists.

(Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation)

It was noticeable this year that there were more sessions on data sovereignty and combatting fake news. Online privacy and web literacy have been a strong focus of MozFest since the start, but it felt like this year there was a bit of an inflection point – the events of the past 12 months have brought these issues into sharp focus perhaps, making it clear that they are societal challenges and not niche issues. Developing information literacy skills has been a core part of learning in an Higher Education environment and digital literacy is probably in all our graduate attributes in some form or another. These talks and sessions brought into sharp relief how much more quickly we need to move on developing these skills within our institutions, particularly as we consider new areas of activity such as learning analytics.

MozFest 17 FakeNews Poster. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

Whilst there was no dedicated digital arts and culture track this year, there was still strong representation through 5 digital artists in residence for the weekend, and a whole programme of hands-on activities in the Youth Zone (not just for kids!).

There is so much choice in terms of sessions that it can be overwhelming, so on Saturday after an excellent first session crowd-sourcing ideas for pathways and career tracks into civic technology, I spent a couple of hours exploring each of the spaces. I picked up a copy of the Mozilla Internet Health Report and had an interesting conversation about how one goes about trying to measure such a thing and the feedback that they are using to develop the next iteration of it.

I also picked up a Data Detox kit developed by the Tactical Technology Collective at a Data Detox Bar (part of the larger “The Glass Room” project – a series of interactive exhibits that pose questions about our relationships with technology). The kit is an 8 day program, beautifully designed, printed onto cards and packaged in a small box. Chatting to the “barrista” at the Detox Bar he explained that the kit is designed to tap into our emotional response to technology products, in particular the sort of “unboxing” pleasure that comes with something like a brand new Apple product. Part of the problem they had identified was the inaccessibility of many existing online InfoSec and privacy resources both in terms of language and design. In this case they had found that a well designed physical resource was getting more traction with less technical audiences. They also had a great tips sheet outlining how to run Data Detox sessions in libraries, based on some experience within the Swedish public library system.

I visited the Meme Lab (exploring how memes are made and a little about the relationship of memes to social movements) and the Humans of the Internet podcast lounge and then it was pretty much time to run my own session “Wikipedia Games” along with Alice White, the Wikimedian in Residence from the Wellcome Library.

Saturday was rounded off with a Virtually Connecting session featuring Josie Fraser, along with ALT’s very own Maren Deepwell and Martin Hawksey – both themselves fresh from running a session on professional development for learning technologists.

Sunday started (for me) with a series of short talks by Audrey Tang, Emily May and Nighat Dad covering topics around using technology for civic engagement, practical tips for combating online harassment, and a sobering reminder that access to the web is not available without consequence for everyone.

My next session choice was NefertitiBot – exploring the possibilities for museum artefacts to curate themselves via chatbots, rather than being constrained to the interpretation given to them by museum curators. We had a lively discussion about the extent to which bots could break free of being scripted and the potential for them to develop in ways that we might not like. With an increasing interest in chatbots in Higher Education in student support roles it was a useful and practical discussion and left me wondering about the extent to which we need to ‘perfect’ such bots versus be open about exactly what they are.

The final speakers session that I went to on Sunday was opened by Gillian Crampton Smith who talked about the emotional elements of technology design and where artists fit into the technology development process. It reminded me again of the Data Detox conversation the day before. She was followed by Sarah Jeong and Emily Gorcenski in conversation with each other talking about fake news and fake data. It served to remind me once again of how vital events like this are, where not only are the issues discussed, but solutions are crowd-sourced, discussed and hacked out across various sessions.

MozFest Data Poster. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0




Finding Purpose with Girl Geeks⤴

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I promised last night at the Girl Geek Scotland event that I would write up a blog post about the workshop that I ran, so here it is.

I’ve been volunteering with Girl Geek Scotland’s Mentoring strand of activities during 2017 and last night was my turn to stand up and run the event. As well as pulling the overall event together (which is made much less daunting by working with a bunch of seriously competent and kick-ass women) this time 3 of us came forward to run the regular break-out workshops too.

You can read more about the session itself here, including details of the other 2 workshops run by Morna Simpson and Gail Logan (click View Details as the event has now ended).

My workshop was framed around being clear about your purpose and drew on experiences I’ve had in my own leadership development and in research I’ve read. These are the notes I wrote for my pitch:

Leadership roles, particularly senior leadership roles involve tough decisions. There’s a lot been written about likeability versus capability – and I think we can look at last year’s US Elections and Hilary Clinton for a good example of where that debate can go at it’s very worst.

Likeability is important – but investing lots of time in thinking about how others see us can also be emotionally and mentally exhausting.

A more productive route, research suggests, is to focus on being clear about our purpose. If we know our strengths and are playing to them we will be more effective, and probably happier too.

In my session we’re going to work through the steps you can take to develop your own personal purpose statement, and then how you can align your work goals to that. It’s going to be a fast, practical, hands-on session. I’m going to make you read some research to get started, then I’m going to make you talk to each other, and do some writing and a bit of sharing back if you’re okay with that. To keep it equitable and fair, I have personal purpose statements from each of the workshop leaders to share with you!

You probably won’t get a polished end product out of it, but you will break the back of it, get some peer feedback, and leave with something you can refine. You’ll also leave with a process that you can repeat in the future.

Being clear about your purpose – your super-power as a leader – is a critical skill, and so is having the tools you need to re-calibrate it every few years.

It was tough to pack this into an hour, but I think most participants managed to make a good start and took something away that they could continue to work on. I really enjoyed running the session and the quick feedback poll we did suggested that others found it useful. I also had the added delight of knowing at least one person in the group already. I also had a good conversation with another participant after the session about making something around goal setting a regular feature each year – feedback that I’ve shared back into the Mentoring volunteers group already.