Monday, January 05, 2015

Notes from Janus: Foresight 2015

2014 was exciting, often hard work, scattered, sometimes just plain depressing. I learnt a lot, and around that learning certain nuggets of direction formed.

2015 feels like it's going to be a long year. There's lots that could be done, but I don't want to risk burnout - quite the opposite. But "everything is interesting", as they say. Here's what I'd really love to delve into:


Last year I played with open notebooks and open working, alongside more structured, documented practices at work. I enjoyed it.

Openness is hard - not from the fear of opening up, but from the effort put into attracting attention to make it worthwhile. For instance, I love the opportunities to collaborate and swap ideas in a semi-backgrounded, ambient way - but that also takes effort to persuade others to get involved along the same lines.

I'd like to practice releasing things without worrying about that aspect, and then see where it takes me. I’d also love to get a proper attempt at Brighton and Hove Open Data running again. I keep swinging between dispassion and engorged enthusiasm with this one.

There's a lot of this around at the moment - or I'm paying more attention. Detachment from social media, from middle class aspirations (which becomes a consumer trend on its own right…), more awareness of mindfulness techniques. However there is something else. I think a lot of these still retain the want to be part of a “movement”, a social detachment, but social nonetheless. The grain of actively participating in shared experiences is too strong in modern life for us to forget about it.

So by detachment I mean something slightly different. It should/will be a personal process, that follows its own route. The best detachers are the ones you never hear about.

Watching a couple of 'Reviews of the Year' type things, I realised how many memes (I hesitate to say 'culture' here) passed me by. Songs, videos, TV, films, games - I dont miss them. There are plenty of other paths. Maybe that’s just how people used to live. These days, network externalities are a strong pull and getting away from them requires active effort - being excluded, for most, is no longer a default, no matter how many people still fret about digital divides and all the rest.

This year I will be working on avoiding things even more. Mute lists. Unsubscribe buttons. Uninstalling. Inbox zero. Staring into space. Staring into white noise. Sleep. Anything that lets the dreams come out.

Personal Infrastructure

This one’s a bit bigger. Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to work out what a decentralised technology stack looks like from a personal perspective - a page on Empty Technology covers it here. Technology is pretty exciting at the moment - VMs, things like vagrant (now Atlas) and automated deployment, personal clouds, etc - and I don’t feel like I understand it enough.

What I’d really like to do is have more small scripts and software helpers running in life’s background. Last year I set up a Dropbox monitoring tool to email family with changes to our shared photos. I’ve been playing with IFTTT again, and have just got another Raspberry Pi. Software and hardware stacks are getting cheap, and the idea of “software servants” to make life easier, smoother and more fun makes me excited.

But there are a lot of challenges - the learning curve, time to develop, maintenance, contingency, etc. We’ll see how far I get. Maybe documenting it openly is the first step?

Learn Chinese

I got given a copy of Chineasy for Christmas by my sister, and really should get back to picking up some Chinese again - I did a course some years ago, and am amused at how much (or how little) still sticks, gum-like, to the sides of my brain. I really should get back into it, but it would be good to have a plan.

That’s one giant aim for each season of the year, so I guess that’s probably enough. We’ll see how far I get, anyway.

Have these words made you think? Drop a comment on the post, via Twitter, or a good old-fashioned email.

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