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S01 E03 – Geriatric Millennials?

In this episode of the Tao of WAO podcast, Doug Belshaw and Laura Hilliger discuss their recent projects, including their work with Greenpeace and Participate. We also share interesting finds such as a Terms and Conditions game, a design skills game called “Can’t Unsee,” and a TikTok trend. The main topic of the episode revolves around the concept of “geriatric millennials” and their unique perspective as a micro-generation born between 1980 and 1985, bridging the gap between analogue and digital communication styles. We briefly touch on the environmental impact of technology, particularly cryptocurrencies, and the need for sustainability. The episode concludes with a reflection on maintaining a healthy work-life balance and the importance of recognizing different modes of being.


Find all of our guests’ reading recommendations at our The Tao of WAO book club.

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Important note: this is a lightly-edited AI transcription of the conversation. If you require verbatim quotations, please double-check against the audio!

Doug Belshaw: [00:00:31] Hello and welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Doug Belshaw.

Laura Hilliger: [00:00:42] And I’m Laura Hilliger.

Doug Belshaw: [00:00:45] Laura, what you been up to since the last time we spoke?

Laura Hilliger: [00:00:47] Well, we spoke yesterday because we speak most days.

Doug Belshaw: [00:00:51] For the benefit of listeners.

Laura Hilliger: [00:00:53] Um, yeah. I mean, we have been doing quite a bit of work with a number of different clients. We’ve continued to work quite closely with a number of folks at Greenpeace doing all kinds of different stuff there. And we’ve recently kicked off a project with Participate, and I really like this project because it has a cool name and it’s I’m learning a lot. I’m getting to sort of onboard myself to some of the work that they’ve been doing. Um, and, and that’s been really interesting. So that’s the keeping Badges weird project, which is sort of a code name for us, Um, yeah.

Doug Belshaw: [00:01:32] Yeah. And so the interesting thing for me, two things. First of all, they’re very up for working in the open like we do. So we’ll stick in the show notes, kind of a link to how we use Trello and also to their Trello board that we’re using with them live because why not share everything people can learn? And also the reason it’s called keeping badges weird is that there’s a bit of a feeling, I guess, that since Mozilla handed over stewardship of the Open badges project of like the stewardship over to IMS Global Learning Consortium, the badges have got a bit corporate and a bit kind of part of the institution. So keeping badges weird and focusing on like open recognition is quite an interesting thing to do.

Laura Hilliger: [00:02:15] Well, also, I mean, the participate, you know, the folks that or the organisations that are using the participate platform and the way that they’re using badges in that platform are I wouldn’t call them weird, but they are definitely some, some organisations that were there at the very beginning of badges. So like I know the National Writing project is using the participate platform and doing social learning there. And I think that’s a really interesting because I remember what 15 years ago doing, you know, maker based workshops around badges with their educators and they were all, you know, all really interested in sort of the intellectual frameworks around badges and experimenting, you know, as opposed to getting on the train when the train’s already left the station. Nope, that’s not an idiom.

Doug Belshaw: [00:03:05] Well, the participate thing reminds me of a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with some people from gradual. So it’s gradual. And this is a kind of a social learning platform, community kind of thing. And they, you know, like at Mozfest, either in person or online this year, they have kind of things going on across the whole festival. So it might be a game or it might be whatever. This one was trying to learn from other people. So proper social community learning and so they’ve got a platform for that. They’re trying to figure out how to, you know, how to make it into a thing. A couple of young, younger guys and their approach is you map, so you map kind of the supply and demand of either your team’s interest or your community’s interests. You match to see what people want to learn and what people want to teach. And then you meet either 1 to 1 or in a facilitated kind of way. And so I was kind of giving them some advice. I ended up hanging out with them for about an hour and a half a couple of years ago, but it meshes quite nicely with the participate stuff because it’s all around social learning. And what I see happening at the moment are like LMS providers and providers and stuff, trying to turn into what are called learning experience platforms or lsps. And the idea there is that there’s lots of different bits of content and that is like an algorithm which serves you up content to learn that way. Whereas I think lots of people I know, including myself, learn from other people. Yeah. And so it’s a bit of a shame that the world seems to be going down the algorithmic individualised way of doing things when actually participate gradual. Other people are trying to do it. What I would say is the right way. Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:04:56] I agree. Do gradual and participate. Have you introduced them?

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:01] I haven’t. I should do that. I should do that. We should also get Mark Mark ODA, CEO of Participate on this podcast. Oh, we.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:07] Should do that. Note to self. I’ll write it down. Cool. Here’s my pen.

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:12] So since last week, since we called the last one, we’ve had a co-op day, and I guess we can link to our etherpad. Everything’s open in terms of that and what we’ve been doing.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:25] Yeah, that was that was a good day yesterday. I feel like we created more work for ourselves as we’re thinking.

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:34] About having an intern who happens to be your niece. We’re thinking about architecture, participation stuff. We’re thinking about, like using Trello, maybe having an in-person meetup now that UX coming out of lockdown. So loads of interesting stuff happening potentially this year. Yep.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:52] Although we’re halfway through the year, so.

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:55] Yeah. It feels weird to be halfway through the year.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:57] I know it’s almost June, and, I mean, I don’t know about you, but the weather here is like a month behind. So. Yeah. So April was March. May is April. June is probably going to be May. I don’t know. But, um.

Doug Belshaw: [00:06:12] And the other thing just to wrap up kind of the work we’re doing, we’re looking we’re continuing to look at the stuff that Catalyst are sending out. We’ve done loads of catalyst projects. You mentioned some of those in previous episodes, so there’s a new one which I mean, some of these catalyst projects are really interesting, like the one that we did together around definition with ten different charities. The one that I did separate to the co-op around Universal Credit. This one is about creating a library of assets for organisations supporting people with long Covid.

Laura Hilliger: [00:06:44] Yeah, so I just saw this brief this morning actually. I guess I shut down a little bit early because it was put in the the Slack channel, which we can also link to, I believe. And yesterday evening and I quickly read through this brief this morning and just felt like I mean, throughout the pandemic we are open has been working with charities and non-profits almost exclusively. We’ve had 1 or 2 clients that were not charity over the past year and a half or so. And but we have and we have been working like in response to Covid, especially with the catalyst work. And but this one is the first time that it’s actually directly impacting or not impacting, that’s the wrong word directly with Covid as a theme. And so the idea is, you know, collecting these resources to help people who have long term Covid from a health care perspective and doing the user research required to make sure that the people who are trying to access these resources, whether they are individuals or non-profits, you know, are able to use the system. I think that’s that’s a really interesting and it’s for me, it feels like the first time that we’re influencing something around Covid from a health care perspective, like gathering health care resources. I don’t know if that makes sense because.

Doug Belshaw: [00:08:09] Yeah, well, the rest of it has been like Covid has had an impact on the benefit system, so let’s help that. Or Covid’s had an impact on people who have young children or people who don’t know like have mental health issues or whatever. So helping those second order effects. But this is literally there are people who are struggling over the long term with Covid. How can we help them? Now, the thing which I find really interesting about this and why we should go for it is that it’s it’s firmly in our in our ballpark in the sense that we don’t tend to do development work in terms of like the actual coding and programming. We do all the innovation work up to that point. So it even talks about week notes, talks about personas, it talks about user needs statements and user research. And that’s the kind of thing that I’m really interested and I think we’re good at. So we should do that.

Laura Hilliger: [00:08:59] Yeah. Okay. Okay. Well, I guess we have more. We should put that together then, because the deadline is May 28th and we will link to that in the show notes for anybody else who is wanting to apply to create a library of assets for organisations supporting people with long Covid.

Doug Belshaw: [00:09:18] And you’re going on holiday next week, so we should get that sorted out. Yes, we should soon, Yeah. Um, and we’re continuing to do that work with, with Greenpeace, the stuff that we can’t talk about as well as some of the stuff which is in the pipeline. But let’s move on to the interesting and cool stuff for this week. Um, yeah, there’s, there’s definitely a theme which we’re going to get to, but let’s go through like a few quick ones first. I think I sent you the terms and conditions game that I found on Hackernews this morning. Do you have a go at it?

Laura Hilliger: [00:09:48] Oh, you found it this morning. Well, I ended up running out of time today because I got into that game and I had to play the whole thing. Usually, you know, with a lot of games during my workday, I start to play it, have a look at how it is, and then usually don’t finish it because it’s my workday and I’ve got other things to do. But this terms and conditions game, which we’ll link to its terms and conditions game. I had to play the entire thing. I think I did pretty good. I um. It says that at the end they told me that they attempted to access my data 28 times and I was kind enough to give it to them only four times. That’s better than 62% of players. And it said that I was faster than 68% of players. So, you know, I like being better at games since I’m so poor at actual like, you know, rocket league.

Doug Belshaw: [00:10:42] So the so the setup is Evil Corp wants your data. It will use every trick in the book just to try and get it. Your mission is do not accept any terms and conditions. Say no to all notifications and always opt out of cookies. And so they yeah, they do every trick in the book. To try and get you to agree to the terms and conditions to access your data. All that kind of stuff. And yeah, the dark patterns are quite, quite fun.

Laura Hilliger: [00:11:08] Yeah. And it’s I mean, you really recognise reality there. You know, this the next link on the list, I literally I had to go and say manage cookies and then I had to click six different buttons so that I didn’t allow Forbes to set 200 different cookies from all kinds of different advertisers, you know, so that terms and conditions game it, it does quite mimic reality quite a quite a bit.

Doug Belshaw: [00:11:34] Well, another quick fun one which I sent to Hannah, my wife this morning, who is a UX designer. I think I’ve seen this before. It’s called Can’t Unsee Dot Space. And the idea is it starts off really easy and there’s two images side by side and you have to say which one is correct. Yeah. So it starts off with like a mock up of a messaging app and you know, the text is in comic Sans, that kind of thing. But by the time you get to the hard level, it’s talking about like the spacing and the amount of bevel and like if there’s a little tiny typo and all these kinds of things and it really makes you realise how much work goes into the design and the iteration of like really high touch apps that we use every day. So that’s quite a cool one to have a look at as well.

Laura Hilliger: [00:12:29] Yeah, I think people underestimate the the job of designers, of UX designers, of user researchers, of, of graphic designers, of designers in general. It’s, you know, when you get on a tech team, it’s often the case that designers are not integrated into into the tech team in a way that really makes sense for whatever the product is. I mean, you see this, you see this all the time. You see, you know, people hire 15 coders and one designer and they and they think, oh, well, you know, we don’t really need design. It’s super easy. It’s just a couple of boxes. No, that’s.

Doug Belshaw: [00:13:05] And sprinkle some pixie dust on it at the end. Make it look good kind of thing. Yeah. Um, what was interesting for me was that when I mentioned about Hannah, my wife, when she switched careers from being a primary school teacher to being a designer, and she tried to explain what she was doing to her, to her side of the family. They didn’t realise that there were people who even did that, like almost they hadn’t thought about the fact that these apps that we use every day don’t just come fully formed out of the aether. Yeah, it’s funny to see people’s reactions.

Laura Hilliger: [00:13:38] You should link in the show notes to the Richard Scarry um, landscape of modern day jobs. So I’ve read Richard Scarry books when I was a kid and they’re like little animals and they had it teaches kids about, you know, people in the world. So they had construction workers and fireworks, you know, firemen and women and police officers. And the books were little, you know, raccoons dressed up as police officers. And then it would explain what a police officer does. And you recently shared a link with me, Um, that was like Richard Scarry books for the 21st century. And I and there were things like Shitposter and, you know, Meme Maker and all these crazy jobs that people actually have. You know, I actually saw Gitcoin is hiring a Shitposter that was the name of the position. Like a Gitcoin needs a shit. Yeah. Gitcoin is looking for a shitposter and I can dig out that link wherever I found it. I thought that was interesting. I thought about going for it, but I don’t have any any online experience of shitposting only real life experience of Shitposting. That makes sense. I’m too old. I’m too old to be a shitposter, I think.

Doug Belshaw: [00:14:57] Is that right?

Laura Hilliger: [00:14:57] Is that right? That was my Segway into our theme.

Doug Belshaw: [00:15:01] Oh, I see. Right. So I’m going to make a note of the Richard Scarry thing. But so the next thing in terms of things that I’m definitely too old for, now that I’m 40, my son, we don’t let him have TikTok because he’s, you know, definitely the kind of, you know, teenage boys especially get addicted to stuff. Um, and I think it’s part of this hyperfocus that actually helps them flourish in life in different ways. But if he had TikTok, all he would do is just spend his life scrolling through. I’ve already banned him from like. Of the YouTube app, all this kind of stuff that’s quite addictive anyway. So some of the TikTok culture does seep through from either him or just from people sharing some of the best things on there. And something which I saw on Twitter was just an amazing not just one remix, but several remixes of an initial TikTok post, I guess you call it. So someone and you kind of have to watch this to understand that. I think you’ve seen it, Laura. Someone was introducing their their girlfriend, someone who has lots of followers, but he did it in kind of a weird and scary, weird man way. And so it was super.

Laura Hilliger: [00:16:12] Creepy when I saw that, I almost turned it off, honestly.

Doug Belshaw: [00:16:17] So like someone, for example, and go and have a look at this if you’re listening, like someone put like a video next to it with almost like a Nerf gun to his girlfriend’s head with a little thing saying, Hey, Britney, blink twice if you need help. And then someone added the legs on and then someone added like police response and then hostage situation, then it being on the news and this video just grew legs and all the remixes. And given how much we’ve been into remix culture and how much of remix I’ve put into kind of my digital Literacies thesis, I think this kind of thing is just amazing and great and so, so good to see. The theme of it is a bit weird, but hey, yeah, no.

Laura Hilliger: [00:17:00] Folks should definitely watch that one. That one. There’s there’s so much crap on TikTok, though, really. Like the amount of things that people that people post and the types of things to you know I don’t know. I mean, sometimes when I’m really tired and I can’t think anymore, then I go and I scroll through TikTok videos and, you know, after about five, ten minutes, I can’t take any anymore.

Doug Belshaw: [00:17:24] So it’s just too much.

Laura Hilliger: [00:17:26] Yeah, it’s it’s kind of a guilty pleasure. It probably happens maybe once. I don’t know. I probably scroll TikTok videos once every two weeks for about 5 or 10 minutes. And then just like the fact that there are that many people in the world that are doing that much stupid, useless, pointless things and posting them on the internet, I find it really strange again, probably just because I’m old, but like I feel like if you’re going to post it as.

Doug Belshaw: [00:17:52] Old as me, it’s all good.

Laura Hilliger: [00:17:53] So I just feel like if you’re going to post a video on the internet, then it should have some sort of a utility, whether it’s an introducing some. I know, right? Like, I mean, it should be at least funny, you know, because there are a lot of videos or maybe I just don’t understand the concept of humour and other people find different things funny, but there’s like stuff on TikTok that is just I don’t get it. Like, I just I’ll have to find something that.

Doug Belshaw: [00:18:20] Kind of staring and scrolling and spending time just kind of zoning out. Um, I used to do that with Pinterest, with ideas. So when the office that I’m sitting in, when it was new, so like seven years ago when I was new to it, should I say previous occupants made this office. I was thinking about what colours to do it like, so I was looking, I was looking at man cave ideas on Pinterest and I spent ages and when we were converting the attic into our like we like to call it our like penthouse suite at the top of the house. We were thinking about ideas on that. But again, that has utility. It’s not just random people saying, Oh, hey, today I did this thing.

Laura Hilliger: [00:18:58] I mean, think I really think this conversation is leading us very nicely into our theme of the day, which has to do with the fact that we have now been called geriatric millennials, I guess. Um, and we, we collected a couple of links this, this question of how, how the different generations respond to each other, particularly in work, is something that we’ve been paying attention to for a while, not just the conversation, but also our experience of it, you know, our experience of working with people who are much younger, our experience of working with people who are older and us being pretty squarely in that. I don’t know if you consider yourself a millennial. I don’t actually. I consider myself Gen X because when I was growing up all Yeah, I mean I’m technically not a Gen X, but all when I was growing up, all of my friends were always older than me and all of the Gen X descriptors fit. I had a pager when I was in high school. I remember the number it was. What was it? No, I don’t remember. Eight, eight, five eight, 851. Yeah, we had codes on the pager. I had a beeper. Yeah. Okay. Listeners can’t see this, but Doug is looking at me like I’m nuts. He thinks I’m really old. The reason.

Doug Belshaw: [00:20:20] The reason I’m laughing, right, is because. Here’s the thing. So. Mobile phones and there’s a very UK context to this, right? So mobile phones became a thing when I was in Upper sixth. So this is when you’re in 17 to 18 years old, you’re in sixth form, you’re doing your A-levels, right? So upper six, very last year of school. All right. And people started getting this very specific phone because you got it free. If you opened a Barclays Student bank account, you got a free phone, which was a huge deal.

Laura Hilliger: [00:20:54] What kind of phone.

Doug Belshaw: [00:20:54] Was everyone had this. It was like it was pre smartphone. Obviously, there was no 3G. It was just literally.

Laura Hilliger: [00:21:01] Was it a Motorola flip phone?

Doug Belshaw: [00:21:03] No, it wasn’t even. It was like this phone was made specifically to get free on this bank account. So people started getting this phone. It had a extendable aerial. Anyway, I didn’t really see the way that things were going and I didn’t want to be like everyone else. So I got a pager for going to university with. Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:21:23] Uh huh.

Doug Belshaw: [00:21:24] Because I was like, Hang on a minute, Why should I spend my credit on people? Me phoning them if they want to get hold of me? Um, like anyway, anyway, I don’t know what the reasoning was. It lasted about three weeks at university before I ended up buying a phone. And then I ended up with that matrix phone, you know, the slider, Keanu Reeves, whatever. Oh, right, right, right. Yeah. Really cool one. Wait, what what year was that? 1999. And then going into 2000. And the funny thing was my dad had a mobile phone in like 1994 for his work and it was like proper crackly, non-digital old school one. But the really interesting thing is that this leads into this conversation because there’s a series of posts here which we’re going to link to. And what they’re saying is our generation or this kind of micro generation, the people who were born in the early or late, late 1970s, early 1980s, we have remembered lived experience of what life was like before the Internet ate everything. But also, we’re young enough to be able to kind of speak that language. And so we’re kind of the glue between stuff. So. Four years ago, this guy wrote a post on LinkedIn because, of course, he wrote a post on LinkedIn saying that. And this guy Raphael took a role from Hootsuite and he basically invented a new name, which was a horrendous name. So I just ignored the post. So.

Laura Hilliger: [00:22:58] So we said we are. So I think it was actually a professor at the University of Melbourne who came up with this term, but this post doesn’t actually link to it, so we’d have to go and like look it up, but whatever. Um, I also thought it was a stupid name. As How do you pronounce it? Xenial.

Doug Belshaw: [00:23:18] Xenial.

Laura Hilliger: [00:23:19] Xenial. A Xenial. So like millennial. But get rid of the mil and just put an x. Um, we’ll link to this, but it’s essentially saying that we are a micro generation born between the cusp years of Gen Xers and millennials, i.e. born between 1977 and 1983, when the original Star Wars trilogy was released. It says in The Post, of course. Um, yeah. And it basically says that we possess both Generation X cynicism and millennial optimism and drive.

Doug Belshaw: [00:23:52] I definitely have the Gen-X cynicism. But the interesting thing for me on that post is where it says Xennials experience an analogue childhood and a digital adulthood. Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting way of putting it. So like, how old were you when you got your first computer? Lower, like 12.

Laura Hilliger: [00:24:08] Um, well, it depends on what you mean by my first computer. So when I was about six, my dad brought home a Commodore 64 for himself because he was learning how to use it at work along with a dot matrix printer. And he installed one game on that computer called Digger. And then about a year later, I got to start playing Super Solver Mystery Learning Games and Oregon Trail when Oregon Trail was new. Um, but I didn’t have internet until I was. I mean, I think my mom got a dial up connection when I was 13. 14. Yeah. So I definitely was, you know, with, with technology. Um, I. I got an original Nintendo entertainment system for seventh eighth when I was 7 or 8. So. So I definitely was grew up with all the new fangled toys. Um, but it wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 that I started to understand how communicating over digital technology was a mind blowing experience. And back then I used to be a total Internet troll.

Doug Belshaw: [00:25:24] Really?

Laura Hilliger: [00:25:24] I hung out in Yahoo chat rooms and Yahoo pipes and Usenet like forums and chat rooms and stuff and pretended to be somebody I wasn’t. So I was a 1213 year old girl and I was pretending to be, you know, a 30 year old surfer from California. Ha. Random. I mean, really, I was I was not an I don’t think I was an outright mean. I just, you know, misrepresented myself quite a bit.

Doug Belshaw: [00:25:53] On the Internet. No one knows if are a dog. That famous cartoon. Um.

Laura Hilliger: [00:25:58] I don’t know. I think that’s when I started thinking about identity, really, you know?

Doug Belshaw: [00:26:03] Yeah, because he could play. And that’s the thing. Being a teenager on the early web, being able to play with your identity a bit like, I don’t think I really I think what I did was I didn’t ever say how old I was and people assumed I was older. Yeah, maybe same. Um, but, but yeah, that was a really interesting experience because like now as a parent, I know to lock all the things down and do all whatever, especially the way the web is now. But my parents didn’t do any of that. So the amount of, you know, like reading of crazy conspiracy theories, the amount of like soft porn and the amount of like, I don’t know, Japanese art and astronomy and all that kind of stuff that came my way unfolded was quite interesting. Um. And I wasn’t shielded from any of that, which is weird. And you just have to deal with it, which when you’re 14, 15, 16, like you have, you have to build up those defences anyway.

Laura Hilliger: [00:27:04] I think it’s really.

Doug Belshaw: [00:27:05] So.

Laura Hilliger: [00:27:05] It’s really interesting because if I think back to some of the communications that I had via old Internet when I was a young girl, some of that stuff was really not appropriate. And actually, you know, if it happened today, I mean, I had, you know, I had conversations with adult men over the Internet when I was 13, 14 years old and didn’t have like the, you know, frontal lobe to understand why that was maybe not a good idea. And I’m sure that if I were to go back and look at those text exchanges, I would be quite horrified. Yeah.

Doug Belshaw: [00:27:40] Thank goodness there weren’t mobile phones with cameras and stuff. Right.

Laura Hilliger: [00:27:44] I can’t. Yeah, exactly. I mean, that was literally Yahoo! Chat rooms. You know, it’s a little bit of a different I remember.

Doug Belshaw: [00:27:50] Having a conversation with a friend who you know as well, not mention who it is who said there was no way I am giving my 12 year old daughter a mobile phone with a camera on it not happening, which I thought was interesting. And this was a few years ago. It was interesting kind of response. But what’s happened since that 2017 post, especially recently. So there’s one in here from September 2020 talking about Gen X and then another one in January saying Y, Gen X is going to save the web. But the most recent one, which I guess prompted this discussion now is the one that came out the end of last month, which is about the hybrid workforce of the future depending on this geriatric millennial. So yeah, so we just jump straight to I mean, they’re the ones are useful for context, but should we just jump straight to the, to the geriatric millennial post.

Laura Hilliger: [00:28:42] Yeah. Which I haven’t read. So how about you introduce it?

Doug Belshaw: [00:28:46] Well, basically it’s saying someone called Erica Dhawan is saying Millennials born between 1980 and 1985, they know how to work across generational design divides. Starts off by talking about some of those things that will be familiar with. So AOL, MSN, that kind of thing, and how that was a whole different. There was ways of speaking. There were, you know, like acronyms, ways in which you interacted, which was different to offline. Um, and it talks about body language and it gives some examples, but basically the main thrust of the post is towards the end and especially the last bit where it says geriatric millennials are valuable because they have a varied skill set to refer to one that lets them cater to the needs of people with different degrees of understanding of and patience for the digital world. Being fluent in both analogue and digital communication styles is a key skill for today’s leaders. Consulting your geriatric millennial colleagues is a great way to polish your fluency so you can meet the needs of everyone, end of quote.

Laura Hilliger: [00:29:51] Yeah, it kind of starts off talking about the fact that the majority of people who are running tech companies and big. Sort of really well known. Um, yeah, just just apps, software, whatever digital things are actually all in this generation. Which is interesting. Um, yeah. I mean, I definitely I definitely think that there, you know, people think that tech is going to solve all the problems and forget about the people side of things, which is that analogue bit. Like yes you know we’re talking over technology but the fact is is that it it’s not you know, there are I hate the term, but there are soft skills that go into being able to relate and have empathy for people via technology. Um, and I definitely think that there that people of a certain age display those competencies a bit better, I don’t know.

Doug Belshaw: [00:30:47] No, I think so. And it takes you back to that thing about having a analogue childhood and a digital adulthood. Yeah. There’s something about if you grew up. Mhm. Definitely something about like coming of age when technology was coming of age. Yeah. Like and just growing up like almost your, your adulthood following the trajectory of the maturity of technology and the maturity of the Internet. I wonder so that you.

Laura Hilliger: [00:31:16] So we both have, you know teaching and learning background. We both have educator backgrounds. It’s almost like the way that we grew up was scaffolded alongside of technology, like we had a little bit of technology and we got used to that. And then we learned a little bit more and a little bit more. And you know, today it’s like there’s just tech for everything. It’s all over the place and there is no scaffolding of the industry in the same way. And I wonder if the reason that we’re so comfortable with it and the reason that we are so comfortable learning new things and that we don’t get, you know, like people like us don’t aren’t confused by it, are able to sort out the truth from fiction, like especially with misinformation. I wonder if it all has to do with the fact that when we learned it, our brains were developing basically like what you just said, sort of at the same rate. And we just had that scaffolding so that we you know.

Doug Belshaw: [00:32:09] I think it’ll be the same for like my kids generation with things like AI, maybe. So for me, AI is just like mind blowing. Oh my goodness, put that in a box over there. Whereas and I think Douglas Adams once said something about anything, any technology that’s invented after you were 35 just feels like completely wrong and against the order of things. So I can imagine them just like growing up as AI being a normal thing. You know, we have all the Google stuff around the house. You know, they used to smart assistants, everything like that. For me, it still feels a bit weird. So there’s that kind of disconnect. And I think having grown up with it, um, the example I was going to give was. If you were learning. How to do frontend web development or something like that now. Like there’s all of these JavaScript frameworks, there’s all of these things you have to learn and it’s all very complicated. Whereas when we were growing up, it was easy. Like CSS was a new thing was really simple. Dreamweaver, if you could get a dodgy version off the internet like was really simple to use. I had a website which I’m sure I’ve mentioned several times before, which was a monty Python appreciation site and was ripping WAV files off the VHS, plugged into my soundcard and putting it on a website which I call Biggus Dickus dot net after Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Um, but yeah, like it was just a, it was very much a different time and you felt like you were evolving as the web was evolving. And of course that’s true now, but the web is evolving now according to big tech, not according to the needs of humanity, I would say.

Laura Hilliger: [00:33:52] Hmm. Well, I mean, you know, I feel like. I wonder if that’s not how tech has always evolved. You know, I mean, I didn’t really have a lot to do with the design of the systems that went into place back in the 80s and early 90s when the Internet started to grow. I don’t know how much people who are of a certain age during that time were really influencing the development of tech. But we certainly have a crazy world now and there are definitely some flaws in the system. And so, you know, part of the reason like I’m also when it comes to I just a little flabbergasted, but I think that, you know, it’s people from our generation really need to wrap their brains around it, understand it and try to design systems that are responsible to the future. And that’s one of the things that I really struggle with is like from a policy perspective and from that design perspective, like what do we need to be doing now so that we can ensure that the ethics of tech are part of the, you know, whatever the future of tech is, because that, I think, is something that yeah, I’m not sure I’ve written a little bit about like, you know, the Wild West of the of the open web or the old Web and the Wild West of like blockchain at the moment, for example, and sort of wondering like, how do we how do we allow the creativity and the wildness and the fun of new innovative stuff to exist and flourish, but also protect people who are vulnerable to what happens when that’s misused? And I think that’s a really interesting social conversation that I think that we work a lot with when we’re designing systems with charities and thinking about when you’re coming at it from user centric perspectives and being willing to change, you know, finding, you know, learning something isn’t quite right for a particular marginalised group and actually giving a shit.

Doug Belshaw: [00:35:52] Mm hmm. Yeah.I think which plays in my mind is organisations like Mozilla say a lot of stuff about AI like that seems to be the latest thing, but they don’t really have any skin in the game. They’re just criticising other companies because Mozilla doesn’t do any well. Not much anyway. I stuff. Um, so it’s like they haven’t got very much power to change stuff apart from lobbying and whatever. But then if you’re within an organisation that does do stuff. The principal thing is the bottom line. So how do you and we saw like the Google ethics and AI team get disbanded and and all this kind of stuff. So how do we navigate that? Is it government oversight? Is that problematic? Um, yeah. It’s an interesting conversation. We should go down that avenue in a future episode.

Laura Hilliger: [00:36:45] Yeah, maybe we should focus exclusively on on that question of is it government oversight for tech? Um, you know, because if you think about. If you think about Airbnb, which is like the example everybody always gives or Uber or any of those, you know, sort of the sharing economy Start-ups. There’s there are winners and there are losers in that game. And if you talk about government regulations and, you know, there were government regulations in place to protect citizens from certain kinds of events happening and some of these start-ups have managed to move around it. I don’t know. Can you still call Airbnb a Start-Up? Do we have another word for these? Do we just say tech companies now?

Doug Belshaw: [00:37:33] Well done, hon. Was talking about how old some of the things that we use are, which we still consider to be new. Like Google Docs is 15 years old. Yeah. Um, and just that’s quite that, that itself is quite geriatric in terms of tech and all this kind of stuff. And should we be expecting better and in fact and I’ll not be able to dig out the link quickly, but there was a case of someone had put stuff in some Google Docs and it wasn’t like humans from Google were going in there looking at it. But all of these things get scanned and it it contravened Google’s guidelines for acceptable speech or something. And so the Google doc was no longer accessible to the person who made it. And there’s all of this stuff going on about like, who owns stuff, um, like duty of care regulation, all this stuff. There’s, there’s definitely a level of clarity of thinking that needs to be to be brought in there. Um, and just to mention a newsletter actually that if you, if you like this podcast and that kind of thing. Um, Dan Horn, who I just mentioned there, he’s just switched to self hosting his newsletter using something called Button down, I think. So it’s He’s originally from the UK but now he lives in the US and he works in the state of California on complex legacy systems and he does like a stream of consciousness newsletter, which I always find quite interesting.

Doug Belshaw: [00:39:01] Um, so you might like that one thing which I’ve got to talk about given our conversations about blockchain and crypto and everything like that. So there’s a website called, which I use quite a lot to find out more about different cryptocurrencies, see the current price of them, that kind of thing. Someone has come up with a website called COIN Carbon Cap. So on a previous episode we were talking about different types of consensus mechanisms. So proof of work, proof of stake, whatever, and proof of work is particularly bad for the environment. It consumes lots of energy. And so this is a league table of kind of the top proof of work currencies. And they’re ranking them by energy efficiency. So right at the bottom of the table is Bitcoin and per transaction, it uses the equivalent carbon as driving 1415 miles. In a Tesla, you can only do 2.4 transactions per megawatt hour of of energy. Et cetera. Et cetera. And it just puts it all into perspective. Dogecoin’s on there as well. So, yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:40:14] Yeah. This table is really crazy. I wanted to ask you what’s I haven’t heard of bitcoin SV.

Doug Belshaw: [00:40:22] So there’s different forks of Bitcoin, basically there’s Bitcoin cash, Bitcoin. Sv There’s wrapped Bitcoin which is on the Ethereum, blockchain, all different kinds of stuff. And you’re on Binance now. We got paid in crypto for some work we did with NIO.

Laura Hilliger: [00:40:36] I was super excited about that yesterday. I was like, Ooh, I own crypto. Mm mm, mm.

Doug Belshaw: [00:40:43] Um.

Laura Hilliger: [00:40:43] I’m behind the curve. I’m one of those xennials or.

Doug Belshaw: [00:40:48] You’re a geriatric.

Laura Hilliger: [00:40:49] I’m a geriatric millennial. Just getting into the crypto game now, guys.

Doug Belshaw: [00:40:54] But like I’ve got a bunch of different crypto things. I’ve got Chilis, which is like for people who want to make their own coins, like football teams, like your vendors and AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, they can make their own coins based on this one called Chilis. There’s different ones around decentralised storage, which I’ve written about. So I’ve got Siacoin and Filecoin and Storage. I’ve got Nir, which is a bit like Ethereum, but it’s got green credentials. Um, all different kinds of stuff really. I’ve got um, Bat, which is the brave one. So that’s stands for Basic Attention Token. Um. Yeah, loads of all different ones. It’s very interesting. But what I’ve decided and I think I’ve mentioned this before as well, is that I’m trying to only invest in proof of stake coins and tokens.

Laura Hilliger: [00:41:50] The environmental the environmental impact of blockchain is very concerning to me particularly. I mean, I’ve written a lot about Nfts recently and the fact that Nfts are going full on capitalism. Um, I saw yesterday, I think I saw a post that the guy who created Rick and Morty is working together with like Fox Animation to make a blockchain animated series which will, you know, sell you nfts of the characters and blah blah, blah. And it’s just like, okay, are you going to think about sustainability there or are you just going to go all out? Not not even consider the environmental impacts of that, put it on Ethereum or something else that is not particularly sustainable. Is there somebody on the team that’s, you know, saying something about that? Because it’s just I find it a bit terrifying that we’re really in a climate emergency and that, you know, all of the youth are out on the streets, not going to school on Fridays for like the last three years. And people who like just this corporate capitalist attitude is like, oh, well, you know, whatever I’ll be, I’ll be dead. So let’s make some NFT animation series with Fox. What?

Doug Belshaw: [00:43:05] Yeah, no, it is. I mean, there’s, I mean, there’s always kind of innovation happening and whatever, but some of the is it is it okay to call them legacy cryptocurrencies? I don’t know. But some of the geriatric geriatric crypto. Geriatric cryptocurrencies, that’s what it is. Um, yeah, kind of problematic. And you know, would the eye watering numbers that people are getting for nfts and various other things, you can’t really blame people for wanting that kind of cash. But at the same time, yeah, like you said, if you’re a if you’re a company making these decisions, maybe, maybe shareholders should be holding to account. I don’t know. Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:43:48] Yeah. And I think.

Doug Belshaw: [00:43:50] What else do we got?

Laura Hilliger: [00:43:51] Well, I was just. I wanted to mention our. Our five year old blog post. We are open co op turned five at the beginning of May and we mentioned it last time. I wanted to mention it again because this was before we started talking about geriatric millennials. And you had put that’s like 57 years in internet time as the subtitle on that post, just like, anyway, and I was remembering that a few minutes ago. So we’ll link to that post again because yeah, Doug was essentially telling the future of what we’re going to talk about. Um, I don’t know. Do you think we should, shall we wrap it up and save some of these other meaty topics for next time? We’re about at 44 minutes.

Doug Belshaw: [00:44:35] Well, there’s one in particular I’d like to share, which I think I sent to you earlier this week. Um, you know, we I think you and I in particular, where our hearts and our sleeves and when we’re feeling like crap, we tell each other. Um, and this blog post I think I sent to you earlier this week when one of us was feeling terrible and whatever, and it’s such a great blog post. So Buster Benson is buying 150 He’s worked at loads of big tech companies and whatever. He’s got a book called Why Are We Yelling The Art of Productive Disagreement. But this particular blog post, I come back to time and time again it’s called Live Like a Hydra. Thoughts on how to Get Stronger when Things Are Chaotic. It references Nassim Nicholas Taleb stuff around antifragility about chaos, monkeys, how to live an antifragile way of life. But point six on this blog post is seven modes for seven heads. And this is sometimes what I think about if I’m and and Laura, you and I, in private conversations have talked about how we find it very difficult, even on days off to not work or to not feel guilty for not working. So these seven modes, there’s recovery mode, novelty mode, work mode, self mode, flow mode, people mode and gold mode. And I think for me it’s recommend, it’s recognising when I should be in recovery mode as opposed to work mode or flow mode or whatever.

Laura Hilliger: [00:46:09] Yeah, I’m sure that I saw this post probably when it was posted years and years and years ago and completely forgot about it, of course. Um, but yeah, it’s, it’s definitely one to read and it’s one that I intend to archive in a way that I actually can come back to it because I, I just find it really helpful to have a framework to sort of identify where, where you are at at on a particular day and then give yourself the time and space to deal with that particular mode. And I think that this is also really helpful for teamwork and with colleagues to be able to have some sort of a framework where you can say, you know what, I can’t do that today. I’m in this mode and this is just it doesn’t fit with the way that my energy needs to flow or whatever creative energy that you have. Um, because you know, the older I get, the more I really need to pay attention to the type of energy that I’m bringing. And the harder I’m finding it to force myself into some other kind of energy. So I don’t know if, you know, I hate it when we start using the word energy in that way, because I always feel like I’m going to go on an esoteric tear and I’m very critical of Esotericism. So I don’t I don’t mean like I don’t mean like through for energy. I mean like, you know.

Doug Belshaw: [00:47:26] Know know what you mean? Know what you mean? I was talking I think I was talking to Hannah the other day about I came across a mastodon. The idea of people having spoons. I don’t know why spoons is the metaphor, but someone said, I don’t have the spoons for that. And someone else had replied, What do you mean? And they were saying, like, for people who are who have some kind of disability, they find life in general harder in terms of getting stuff done. Or maybe you’ve got, um, chronic fatigue or whatever, and I’ll probably misrepresent this. And if you’re listening, please do. Correct. But, um, it was saying that when you’ve only got a certain amount of energy or just concentration or willpower or whatever it is, saying that you’ve basically got a few spoons, which spoons are you going to give to different activities is quite useful. And just saying I haven’t got the spoons for that is just saying no to some things so you can say yes to others. Um, but instead of being like all tech bro about it, you know, say no to lots of things so I can say yes to winning at life or whatever. Um.

Laura Hilliger: [00:48:32] Ten ways to win at Life and have Enough spoons. Let’s make a list of all.

Doug Belshaw: [00:48:37] Let’s do it. Anyway, let’s pivot, let’s pivot into the quotation of the week, which I have selected from a book which I think I talked about last week, which I’ve never finished, called How Everything Can Collapse. Yes. And this and so this quotation is from that book, but it’s by a guy called William Ophuls, I want to say. So it’s when the available when the available energy and resources can no longer maintain the existing level of complexity, The civilisation begins to consume itself by borrowing from the future and feeding off the past, thereby preparing the way for an eventual implosion, which is not the kind of happiest way of ending this podcast. But given that, given that we’ve been talking about energy uses of cryptocurrency, given that we’ve been talking about, you know, like, um, you know, geriatric millennials, saving the world and dark patterns in terms and conditions and, and all that kind of stuff, I feel like it’s an appropriate way to to finish things off.

Laura Hilliger: [00:49:43] Well, the next note is Laura is going on holiday, so I thought you chose that quotation to indicate how you would be feeling without me. Guess not.

Doug Belshaw: [00:49:54] Oh. Oh. Well, you’re going away for three weeks, too. Are you going away all three weeks to Finland or What’s happening?

Laura Hilliger: [00:50:01] I don’t know if we’re actually going to be able to go to Finland. So we’re going to head up through Sweden. Sweden. Sweden did pandemic differently than other European countries, as did Finland. So Finland is maybe not going to let us in, although I have had my first shot or jab. It’s called in your English. Um, so yeah. So I don’t know, we’re going to kind of play it by ear, but I haven’t taken any time off since Christmas time around. Yeah. Um, so it’s time for a break and a little family time. And that means, dear listeners, that we will be back in the middle of June sometime with a new instalment, but we’re planning on publishing three now, so hopefully it gives you enough time. My vacation gives you enough time to listen to all three episodes and then we’ll be back in June.

Doug Belshaw: [00:50:57] Cool. So we’ll figure out how we’re going to publish this and how we’re going to syndicate it at a time when it seems like Spotify and Apple are trying to enclose the whole podcast genre. But we’ll make sure this is open in lines with our ethos. And yeah, get this wherever you get your your podcasts. Guess if you’re listening to this, you already have. So there we go. Cheers for now. And we’ll be back next month!