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S09 E03 – Etherpad

In this episode of the Tao of WAO podcast, Laura Hilliger and Doug Belshaw lament the crashing of their Etherpad server and chat about tools they use for knowledge management. Support the Tao of WAO at



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


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

Laura: [00:00:25] Hello and welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, community, society with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I am Laura Hilliger and I do not have my etherpad, so I’m not sure if I did the intro correctly.

Doug: [00:00:44] What the hell’s etherpad?

Laura: [00:00:46] Laura Hilliger oh well, etherpads are awesome. It is a collaborative note taking document that has pretty colours and numbers, and we use them all the time. But our server has been down flaky for a number of days. And, um, it’s.

Doug: [00:01:03] We have had this survey. Sorry. Server. We have had this server or an etherpad server for like seven years in various guises. Um, so yeah, I’m Doug Belshaw, for those of you who don’t recognise the sound of my voice. And how long would you say you’ve been using etherpad for?

Laura: [00:01:21] I think the first time I saw a etherpad was in 2009. Uh, and I have been using this. Yeah, it’s a long time. And, I mean, to be fair, our server is not has in the seven years that we have been hosting our own etherpad. Um, the server has been pretty good, but for the past couple of weeks it has not been. And I feel like I’ve lost an arm. There’s so much stuff in my aether pads.

Doug: [00:01:46] That’s quite an extreme thing. So would it be fair to say that we’re probably freestyling this like we don’t even have the links in front of us, and we’re going to just, like, share them in the chat and stuff?

Laura: [00:01:56] I did write down a question that I had for you, um, which I thought we could help us get started without. I mean, it was before I remembered that we don’t have to etherpad.

Doug: [00:02:05] Is it? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Laura: [00:02:09] Yes.

Doug: [00:02:11] Do you mean African or European swallow?

Laura: [00:02:13] European.

Doug: [00:02:15] Um, you obviously don’t know Monty Python, the Holy Grail. Um, so. Ah.

Laura: [00:02:24] And I do, I do know Monty Python and the Holy Holy Grail. It’s a great film. I should watch it again. I haven’t seen it in years.

Doug: [00:02:33] My wife cannot stand that film. She can’t stand Monty Python. She thinks it’s too silly. Oh, that’s the whole point.

Laura: [00:02:39] Do you know Broken Lizard? No Broken Lizard was a comedy group in like the 90s. They did, um, beerfest Super Troopers. I don’t know what else they did. Um, but very. Yeah. Broken lizard. Oh, good. Take notes so that we remember to link to things. Do you, do you know kids in the hall?

Doug: [00:03:03] I’ve heard of you. I’ve heard you mention it. These are all open things. Why would I know about this? All right.

Laura: [00:03:07] It’s probably that’s. That’s true.

Doug: [00:03:10] Yes. I’m so. Hang on, hang on a minute. Let’s just. You’re saying I’m so old. I’m, like, two years older than you.

Laura: [00:03:16] I said we’re so old because, like, mentioning, like, you know, sketch comedy groups from the 90s is, you know, I mean, I can’t, I, I guess I’m not really up to date on the sketch comedy cruise of the 2020s, if there are any that are any good. Anyways, all of that, um, all of those dudes from back then, probably if you watch it again today, it would, um, I don’t know how well it’s aged, you know? Anyway, no, that was not my question. It was not about Monty Python or swallows. Um, I wanted to ask you something about, uh, process, actually, because, uh. Yeah. Process. One of your favourite topics. Uh, and specifically, I wanted to ask you, how long have you been using Google Calendar to organise your to do’s?

Doug: [00:04:10] Oh, interesting. So let’s just try and work this out. So I’ve been using Google Calendar. Definitely. So um, rewinding I was definitely using Google Calendar when I was teaching, and I would have been using it personally as well. It took me a while to convince my my wife to use Google Calendar for like, family stuff. But then when did it, when did it have the option to add to do’s in there as well? Oh, I tell you what I was using before that, which might give a date to it. Can you remember that short lived thing called Google Inbox?

Laura: [00:04:46] Barely.

Doug: [00:04:48] No curriculum box was around for about two years. It was an alternative kind of front end, I guess, to your Gmail inbox, and it allowed you to like add. Like notes and things to do to emails. So like you could you could get an email to disappear from your inbox and then come back automatically next Monday. Or, um, you could pin it with a note of what to do with the email. Super useful. But it got shut down. And then I think after that the kind of replacement for that was Google Tasks. And then Google Tasks became viewable in your calendar. So I guess it was pre-pandemic, I’m guessing five years. Um.

Laura: [00:05:27] And so you just said that it took you a while to convince your wife, Hannah, to use Google Calendar for personal stuff. So that answers the question of you have all of your personal to do’s family to do’s. What I call life shit. Uh, is all Google calendar right next to your work.

Doug: [00:05:50] Although, um. That’s interesting. So we do have a whiteboard in the kitchen, which is divided into like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, like my daughter’s football and my son’s basketball. Like when things are so the kids can see it and you can see it as you go out the door one week. Yeah. So we write it on a whiteboard. Yeah.

Laura: [00:06:10] Do you guys have like, a family meeting once a week where you write on the right whiteboard?

Doug: [00:06:15] So we used to um, but the family meeting went out the window during the pandemic when we were kind of sick of the sight of each other and didn’t want a meeting anymore. So, yeah, I was.

Laura: [00:06:27] Always amazed by these, like, weekly, you know, family or roommate meetings like Anna, uh, when Anna was in the university and when she lived in LA, she lived in a huge roommate situation. There were like eight people in this massive, like, old German flat in LA. And, um, they used to have, I don’t know if it was weekly or it was meet, uh, monthly, but it was like a, you know, a the flat plenum where they would come and everybody would have agenda items and they would discuss like, you know, quit putting my good knives in the dishwasher or whatever, whatever you discuss in these kinds of situations. And I was always I was always amazed by this because, like, I have a little non-profit we meet, you know, once a month or something. And every time the the non-profit meeting comes around, I’m like, oh no, it’s non-profit meeting day, you know, not because I don’t care or something, but just because I’m antisocial and, you know, being in real life at a meeting is that kind of meeting a personal meeting? It feels different than a work meeting.

Doug: [00:07:32] Meeting? Yeah. No, it does definitely. So, um, we didn’t have that many of them. It was a bit of an experiment and the pandemic kind of put paid to them. So we used to sit. So we’ve got a big table which is currently in storage because we’re renting, and we bought a second hand table to fit in this rental house. Now, interestingly or not, interestingly, depending on your view of this, um, the way this podcast is going so far, um, we’ve got this huge table in storage, which we would use to use, and then the one which we’re using now is circular. So what used to happen was my wife and I would sit on one side of the very large table, and the kids would be on the other side of the table. And if you think about it, that’s almost like an interview situation. There’s a definite power dynamic going on there. And what we realised during the family meeting was that I needed to swap seats with my son, so that it was mixed up, otherwise it was just like us telling them what to do, which is not really a meeting. It’s more of a, um, intervention. But now that we’re all sitting and they’re a bit older as well, sitting around a circular table, the power dynamic is completely different because there’s no obvious like side to the table. Yeah.

Laura: [00:08:36] So that see, I think that’s interesting because like for me, when if you were sitting across the table from your wife and direct eye contact, that is a definitely like a powerful position to be in because you have eye contact. Whereas if you’re next to each other, you know, you have to like turn to be able to to get the reinforcement and power dynamic. Um huh. Okay. Square tables are bad.

Doug: [00:09:02] Yeah. So that was interesting. Going back to the calendar thing though. So I can’t do I can obviously obviously differentiate with three different Google calendars. I’ve got my personal one, I’ve got my dynamic skill set one, I’ve got the co-op one. But I put all of my to do’s on the co-op one just so that.

Laura: [00:09:19] Including personal tattoos.

Doug: [00:09:20] Including personal. I tell you why. Because if I put a personal to do on my like personal Gmail, because that’s connected to all of the devices around the house with the Google Assistant stuff, they show up on the screens, which if it’s like, you know, buy flowers for my wife, like, that’s not I.

Laura: [00:09:39] Love that that was the example that you that you chose. Aha. And okay, another question about your process and how do you add tasks to your to do list. Do you have like a time every week that you sit down and you say, this is what I need to do this week. Bam bam, bam. Task list. Do you just have like an endless list of tasks that make it to your calendar somehow? How how do you do that?

Doug: [00:10:05] I find this hilarious, Laura, because the thought that you honestly think after knowing me for 15 years, right, that you honestly think that I’m going to sit down and start the week and think really hard about what tasks I just add shit to my calendar when I think about it, and then there’s some stuff which just gets moved from day to day to day, from week to week to week. Like, um, I try not to do that too much. If it’s moving too much, I like, um, decide I’m not going to do it or I put it away in the future, or I kind of change the task. But, um, the kind of things I’ve got on my list today, for example, I’ve got a book. It’s. By my wife. Uh, congratulations on your new job card. Um, delete the categories. On on thought. Shrapnel. Plan the participate. Use the research questions. Update the blog post that I wrote. Um, that kind of stuff.

Laura: [00:10:58] That’s all on your calendar for today. And you’re sitting here with me recording a podcast just because. How are you going to get all that stuff done, Doug?

Doug: [00:11:09] What? But the thing which would be useful, right? I feel like you’re trolling me at the moment, but. But the thing which would be useful and I have experimented with this, you know, I’ve experimented lots of different systems before, including paper ones and stuff. But there’s a like there’s. A limited benefit to trying to estimate how long something will take. So booking the eye test, you could say it’s going to take five minutes. I’m just gonna make a phone call, get it booked in, whatever. Um, but there’s some things like you don’t know. And what I find really interesting is, as you know, Hannah, my wife, um, currently works at what used to be called NHS digital. When they’re working. So she’s a user researcher and working with, like, developers and the delivery manager and whatever they do, something called planning poker, which some people listening to this might be familiar with. I don’t know if you’ve come across it before, or it’s like a add on to Trello.

Laura: [00:12:07] Uh, I haven’t, but you said planning poker, and then I just, like, went to Red Dead Redemption in my mind and started, like, thinking about playing actual poker.

Doug: [00:12:17] It’s a bit like that. So if you, um. If you get it wrong, someone shoots you in the head. Um, yeah. No. So the poker element of it is like, there’s a tusk on the planning board, and people put in their estimate of how long they think that’ll take. And this get this, even if it’s someone else’s task, which I find bizarre. And then it kind of shows everyone’s different kind of bits. And then you negotiate kind of what, what’s going to be. I think that’s a bit shit. I yeah.

Laura: [00:12:48] I mean I, you know, I’ll put like ambition for how long something is going to take me. Um, but then, you know, I don’t, I don’t really care. I just figure out how long something took me, you know, like estimating time. It’s I that’s the thing. That’s the thing about, you know, the co-op work. Like, when we do proposals and stuff, we often need to estimate how many days are we going to spend on X? And a lot of time, I mean, we do like pretty gigantic, complex things, um, projects, you know, for really intricate organisations. I mean, we work globally and I find it quite difficult to say, oh, you know, this thing that I have very little information about is going to take me three days, uh, even though I don’t have any of the context and background yet. But, hey, we’re at the beginning of the contract, so here’s my estimate. Like, I hate that part of the job. And I think we’ve gotten better at it, of course. But, um, you know, estimating time it takes to do things I don’t, you know.

Doug: [00:13:53] So this is the bit where I start talking about my MSC and systems thinking work. You were just waiting for this to happen, weren’t you?

Laura: [00:14:00] I was prepping it.

Doug: [00:14:01] Yeah, it’s all right. You can take a little nap now. So, um. I do want to ask you about your process, but let’s just really quickly, um.

Laura: [00:14:17] It’s said that he said that while I was taking a sip of my coffee, dear listeners, because he knew that I was going to inhale it into my nose. Uh huh. You do want to ask me a question? Okay.

Doug: [00:14:27] I do, but for the moment first. That’s enough of you talking. Let’s, uh, let’s hear from me. Um, so.

Laura: [00:14:38] It’s my favourite episode so far. All right. Continue.

Doug: [00:14:43] Um, as part of the, like, 50,000 words I’ve written on my blog for this, uh, MSC so far. And let’s, you know, let’s not forget that I spent 17 hours doing an assessment yesterday. Um, I know, so I wrote a blog post about something in this book, um, called Systems Thinking. And the blog post is called objectification and an apartheid of the emotions, which I put into the thing. So, um, this.

Laura: [00:15:10] Guy, a lot of eyes in that title, just letting you know. Okay. Sorry. Go ahead.

Doug: [00:15:15] Yeah. So, um, at the start of this chapter of the book, he talks about, um, for contemporary settings that constrain the emergence of systems practice. One of them is like the target mentality that we have. The second one, and this is the one I want to talk about now, is living in a projective wide world where everything is a project. The third is like failing to get the right framing around what a situation involves, and the fourth is what he calls an an apartheid of the emotions, which is where basically you can’t bring your full self to work. And, um. Yeah. Everything is divorced from emotion. There’s no check ins. There’s no, like, human element to it. But I just want to talk about the objectification bit of it. I’ve. I’ve tried to stop using the word project in relation to the work that we’re doing over the last couple of weeks, and it’s really, really hard because the only other words you can really use, or I found so far, is just work. Um, and I don’t really know how else to describe it, but yeah, in terms of I’ve forgotten where I was going with this, but like trying to understand that the work that we’re doing with clients isn’t a series of projects. It’s a partnership and an engagement with them to try and help their situation become better through some interventions which were implementing together. Mhm. But that’s harder to say than project.

Laura: [00:16:43] Yeah. That was like, you know, that was an entire definition of what the word project might mean. What else could we use? I mean, I guess you could use sometimes I’ve used program. So for example, the critical incident work that we did, I didn’t consider that a project. I considered it a program because it was such a massive and like there was a complexity to that, where I also thought that the word project doesn’t really work, whereas program feels like a bigger.

Doug: [00:17:16] I don’t know, an ongoing engagement. But the interesting thing with all of this is because I think it links to like task management as well, because task management is not a very human way of looking at the world. Like, if I look at my Google calendar and I see a bunch of tasks like that doesn’t reflect human messiness and complexity. Um, now I know that you write things down a lot. I see you doing that when we’re on calls together. Um, what’s your equivalent of me putting random shit in my Google calendar?

Laura: [00:17:45] I have, uh, so I used to be a Evernote user, uh, several years ago for for years and years, actually. Uh, and then. I don’t know, 3 or 4 years ago I switched to the open source version of it. It’s called Joplin. Uh, locally run. Really nice. Whatever. And I use Joplin now, which is basically like Evernote. I use that to keep track of the little bits and pieces that fall out of my head. So if I’m writing something down while we’re talking, it’s probably like a to do. And then I actually do sit down every Monday morning. The first thing that I do before our co-op call that kind of we have. So our co-op call is Monday mornings at 11 a.m. for me, 10 a.m. for you, um, and from about 930 to 11 or really ten minutes before. So, um, I call that list. I call my list. Uh, I slot things in based on the meetings that we have, because I’ve learned that switching context is really hard for me. Like, I can’t do, you know, I can’t do an MIT meeting and then immediately jump into some other client work, like, I need to have blocks of time. Um, and so I take the to do list and I match it with the, the co-working times. We have the meeting times, we have the client days, we have all that stuff. And then I drop the little tasks in, and I also have the I copy and paste this every single week and still haven’t done it.

Laura: [00:19:15] So my personal tasks are also on there, but not my family tasks. So my family tasks are on a massive and hilariously organised Trello board called the Life Shit List. It’s literally what it’s called. Uh, and the light the life shit list has things like call the insurance adjuster or, you know, replace the tire on the second bike or whatever kinds of like, normal things people have to do. Um, and that one basically just keeps getting added to. But we very rarely check things off. There’s also there’s a ideas that we should do list on the life list that includes things like animated tattoos should look, um, a couple of Start-Up ideas that I had, you know, a decade ago and then just never, never made, um, thought about like a, you know, a climate controlled hotel high in the mountains so that when visitors came like a luxury hotel, I wanted to call it acclimate. Uh, and it would be a luxury hotel for people who get altitude sickness. So it would be a pressurised hotel so that if you’re feeling sick or if you don’t want to feel sick when you’re high up in the mountains, then you can come and stay at my luxury hotel that I’m never going to build. Somebody’s going to take that and get rich.

Doug: [00:20:42] I always feel a little bit pressurised when I’m in hotels, but that’s because I feel out of place.

Laura: [00:20:47] Also on that, uh, the ideas list, I’ve got the home ownership podcast that you and I have discussed, where basically the entire podcast is just like how to buy a mattress or, you know, like how to buy a new water. I think that’s.

Doug: [00:21:01] Going straight to the top of the podcast charts.

Laura: [00:21:03] I feel like it would be a really good one. It would be really funny too. I mean, I everybody I know who owns a house has those kind of adulting stories, you know? Um, what else? Oh, uh, a movie I’m going to write about. Um, a serial killer who is a sailor. That’s on that list. I haven’t done it yet. Uh, you know, Bitcoin don’t name names for decentralised DNS. Uh, registrars.

Doug: [00:21:27] It’s been done, though. Move on. Um, so. So I recorded, um, another. I recorded an episode with another host for the day. Laura. What? The podcast, I know.

Laura: [00:21:43] Wait, you were a guest on an episode?

Doug: [00:21:45] I was a guest on an episode, yes. No, I wasn’t hosting another, you know. So, um, this one, which I’ll put into the, um. No, this was interesting. So this is a podcast called artificiality. And, uh, it’s about kind of AI and various other things. But the reason I came across it was serendipitous. And I was talking about serendipity on the podcast and, um, I, I everyone I’m sure everyone ego searches their name on every platform. Um, if not, I apologise. And it’s just me. It’s just you. So I was searching for my own name in Spotify. The reason being was I was trying to find our podcast and it wasn’t coming up when I typed in Tao. So I typed in Doug Belshaw and I came up with this artificiality podcast, and they’d mentioned some of my work and whatever. I reached out to them on email, we end up on the podcast, etc.. Anyway, when I recorded that on Tuesday, we talked about all different kinds of stuff, including like, how do you. Get stuff done, like how do you get things out into the world? And we talked about reading and writing and thought shrapnel and various other things. Um, and I wanted your kind of opinion on this as well, because I know that you’re a writer and also a reader of stuff. Um, when you’ve got a queue of things to read, where do you keep those? And then how do you decide where? Where the output of that is going to be. Is it going to be a social network? Is it going to be a blog post? Is it going to which blog is it going to go on that kind of thing? Like, do you think about that kind of process or is it just kind of in the moment?

Laura: [00:23:16] Um. So I used to have a pretty clear process for that. Um, but I lost my password, my backup authentication code, and all the other things that were ever associated with my entire, uh, Mozilla account. So, like, four years ago, Mozilla took over pocket, and I used to use pocket for everything. And I had, like, a system of tagging. I had a system of stars. I had thousands of articles in there. And then when they got rid of the pocket login and switched to Firefox, I didn’t have any way to get it back. And I also can’t delete my email address like I can’t delete the Mozilla account so that I could start again. Oh it’s very it’s yeah. You can’t. Yeah. So so I ran into a little technical error there. And then I for probably over a year had no system at all. Um, didn’t even save links. Was just like, I mean, I would copy and paste links that I went to share in my newsletter. I’d copy and paste directly into a Joplin notepad, um, share them, and then forget about them forever. Now I’ve started using just maybe 2 or 3 months ago, something called Cubox Cubox. I’d never heard of it before. Um, it seems to be pretty good. I’m still on the free account, and with a free account you can only save like 200 things. And I’m getting close to having saved the 200 things, but it’s basically like a a link, uh, save organiser and. Yeah. And then when I’m feeling like, oh, what do I want to read, I go to my Q box, I look around, sometimes I’ll filter because I have filter or like I tag, you know, our philosophy to read science, whatever. Um, sometimes I have a theme that I want to look at, and so I’ll filter by that. Um, but yeah, I’m actually I’m.

Doug: [00:25:10] Just reading this, it says, um, supercharge your reading and study. Read ten times faster with AI, automated summary highlighting and insight.

Laura: [00:25:18] I haven’t tried that out. I haven’t tried that out at all. I’m gonna open this. Yeah, I you know, I actually was thinking, like, maybe I need to, like, go watch a tutorial or something on, you know, how other people use this piece of software because I’m literally just using it as like a mess of links, and I do use the tagging features.

Doug: [00:25:38] So interesting. So that is that, oh, it’s Android as well. It’s not just Mac. Yeah. Cool. Yeah I’m going to look at that. So that’s Cubox We’ll put this in the in the show notes. Yeah.

Laura: [00:25:52] So so I’m, I’m thinking about um getting a subscription because I’m getting up to the limit. And, um, I definitely use this quite a bit when I’m doing my newsletter because, you know, my newsletter is really eclectic. It just kind of goes all over the place. Um, and. Yeah, yeah, you know, some sometimes I feel like I don’t have enough links. So then I’ll just go through some, you know, I’ll go find something that I read that I thought was interesting and then I’ll throw it in there. Uh, and I use cubox. But in terms of the output, the second question, the second part of your question there, um. I have absolutely no process for how or where I share what kinds of things. So in the past couple of years, I’ve gotten really bad at social media. Like, I mean, I think I’m, I think I’m posting to Mastodon, like maybe 2 or 3 times a week. I just don’t I don’t know, I just feel like, who cares? And then I just don’t post things. Yeah. So yeah.

Doug: [00:26:55] That’s interesting because like, for me, the ideal workflow is something like, you know, when you’re talking about QuickBooks, which I did not know that you used, I use pocket still. Ideally, what I want to use pocket for is adding stuff to the list. Um, you like adding stars? I just kind of, like, go in there and let it wash over me kind of thing. Um, but I want to, like, go in, highlight stuff and then add my comments to it, which is basically what thought shrapnel is. Right? And I’ve moved thought shrapnel from WordPress to, um, recently, but pocket kind of, but also kind of doesn’t have this built in and I’m just trying to do it. Now while we’re talking, you can highlight stuff in pocket, and then you can see your highlighted stuff on your profile. And the obvious thing there would be then to have a pocket blog where you can, but it doesn’t really work when I’ve tried it before, even if you upgrade to the Pro account.

Laura: [00:27:55] Yeah. Check. I’m. I’m not sure if cubox it does annotations and it does like, it’s not just you. You can save more than just links. Like you can save screenshots, you can make memos or notes or whatever they call it in that software. Um, so yeah, I don’t know. Like I said, I’m, you know, I just started using it. Maybe, I don’t know, 3 or 4 months ago. Uh, and I definitely the web when I went to the last time I went to the Kiwibox website, it did not look like this. It was like a little, like rinky dink website. So I think I think they might have figured out a bit of a business plan because this looks like. Or maybe they got sold, I don’t know, but this looks like an actual proper piece of software.

Doug: [00:28:44] So? Well, I guess you kind of have to make everything. Have I in there?

Laura: [00:28:48] Yeah, I mean, definitely we should just. You know what? This podcast should just be AI generated. We could just get, like, we could just train AI on our voices and see, you know, see, see whether or not we get more listeners or more feedback.

Doug: [00:29:07] You know, I’ve got such a I don’t even want to start on this rant, because it’ll just be the rest of the podcast, and I’m you’ll just tell me to shut up. But like, it’s so obvious where all of this is going. To me, it’s like. Yeah. Anyway, never mind.

Laura: [00:29:25] You don’t want to rant about AI for the rest of the.

Doug: [00:29:27] Maybe I’ll maybe I’ll write it down and get out my system. But, um, like, just to remind everyone that almost a decade ago, Google brought out a patent so that self-driving cars could use Google Maps to take you to to your destination, and then it would take you via, like, a store or some kind of offer. Um, and people like, oh, well, that’s very nice, but is that ever really going to happen? Um, and then someone replied saying, yeah, of course it’s going to happen. If you can go this way in a self-driving car and your ride is going to be free because you’ve gotten past Burger King instead of like this other way, which went past McDonald’s and Burger King is paying for your trip, of course, like it’s going to happen. Um, and Google bought something called Waze, was, um, an Israeli Start-Up like way before the pandemic, and I used that on the way back from wherever we were going on a longish trip, um, when there was congestion. And sure enough, when I was stuck in traffic, I’d adverts were popping up of local businesses nearby. Now, if you take that and supercharge it with AI, you then know loads of stuff about.

Doug: [00:30:37] You can connect all the dots to all that kind of stuff. Basically surveillance on steroids, like instead of Q box or whatever it’s called recommending stuff that objectively it thinks that you or someone like you might like. It’s going to be like trying to influence what it wants you to think about a particular thing. It’s going to start selecting articles that might be of interest to you, that give a slant in terms of like the Israel invasion of Gaza and, you know, what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine and the American presidential election and whatever. And so we’re going to end up with this, like fractal view of reality where, yes, there’s still going to be these, you know, people who look down on plebs saying, oh, why can’t they just have some media literacy? But literally, literally, unless you’re paying for all of your stuff to get out of those AI algorithms, like you’re going to live a life which is curated for you, which is something that I wrote a decade ago like, but curate or be. Either you create your own life or you have a curated for you.

Laura: [00:31:43] Yeah, but that AI that is kind of the state of reality now are we? Yeah. We’re going to go 30 minutes into the podcast and then we’re going to get all deep and philosophical. But isn’t that the state of reality now? Because, I mean, you can argue that a lot of like the. Topics and themes that are, you know, mainstream and on this particular day in history are mainstream because that’s what the that’s what the media is showing people, you know, like that’s and that’s what people are consuming and therefore they really do care that, you know, the whole right wing thinks that. Taylor Swift we talked about Taylor Swift last time too, right? That that whole thing, you know, Taylor Swift being a cyclops for Joe Biden. Like if nobody was talking about it, then nobody would continue to like, think that kind of a crazy bullshit. But the media continues to report on it. People like you and I keep talking about it. The news spreads, people start looking it up and that. Sure, sure.

Doug: [00:32:47] But what I’m talking about is a lot more kind of subtle and nuanced than that. So, for example, when I go to the I have these conversations with my father often about the kind of Tory rag that he reads. Um, but like when I go to the Guardian, I know that I’m getting a left wing slant on on the news. And I know that the news agenda is selected for me by people whose interests do not necessarily align with my own. I get that, but at least I’ve made the choice to go to that place and select those articles. Um, when we’re interacting with, say, ChatGPT or an AI within Q box or AI in every tool ever, because that’s where we’re heading. Like the little recommendations are small, tiny nudges which are like, oh, why not? Because you’re not in the mode of thinking about media literacy or about what you’re actually trying to achieve in life. You’re just trying to get this document out the door. You’re just trying to read and keep up to date with what’s going on in your industry or the news or whatever. You’re just trying to use a mapping a map to get from one side of the city to another. And like all of these little things, subtly shape our attention and shape who we are, um, which is a much more nuanced, subtle, and insidious way of using AI than. What we’re talking about with the media cycle. And although I am not a conspiracy theorist, I do not think the Illuminati is behind the scenes pulling the strings and everything like that. It would be much easier to do that with AI than it would be to try and control everyone by the media.

Laura: [00:34:27] Just some nodding yes and agreeing. I have no comma.

Doug: [00:34:33] Right. Well, that got serious, so let’s lighten things up. Um, yeah.

Laura: [00:34:41] Um, where how what are we? I’m like, scrolling really quickly trying to find like, oh, what’s a good segue from there to anywhere else?

Doug: [00:34:51] What do you think about this? Right. So, um, what was the first social media site that you used? What do you say? Ooh.

Laura: [00:35:01] Um, I think it was Friendster, but it might have been Myspace. I think it was Friendster, though. I think Friendster was was the very first, uh, you know, you can connect with your friends and share updates site that I ever joined. I don’t and because.

Doug: [00:35:23] I would because I would never because I would never share your age with our audience. Um, what kind of what kind of stage of life were you in when you were, um, on Friendster?

Laura: [00:35:34] Uh. Okay. Yes. So that’s when it launched. Good. Apparently. According to Wikipedia, Friendster launched in March of 2003. Um, I don’t know if I joined right then, and I can’t quickly scan to see when it died. If it died, even. Maybe it’s still maybe Friendster is still a thing and I just don’t know about it. Um, what stage of life was I in? Well, I was still in university. Um, I graduated with my bachelors in 2002, so I was not still in. I was just out of my first degree. Uh, and I was working.

Doug: [00:36:14] For your bachelors in 2002 or 2. I graduated from my buses in 2002. And I’m older than you.

Laura: [00:36:21] Yeah, but did you go to five different universities and have, like, a nice little homeless adventure that took you halfway through an entire continent?

Doug: [00:36:31] No, in which case it will be later than me. Yeah.

Laura: [00:36:34] Oh, right. Wait, I. Heh. Oh.

Speaker3: [00:36:39] Unless you want.

Doug: [00:36:39] University, whether you’re, like, 13 or.

Laura: [00:36:41] Something. No, but I well, I graduated from high school. I skipped two years in, so I skipped, um, the I skipped the third grade, and I skipped the 11th grade. Um. For reasons. I mean, you want.

Doug: [00:36:58] To hang on. You went to university when you were. How old? 16.

Laura: [00:37:00] I was 16 when I graduated from high school, and I started taking community college classes the semester after that. So I had like, I don’t know, six months off or.

Speaker3: [00:37:11] You probably.

Doug: [00:37:12] Did graduate into one.

Speaker3: [00:37:13] Yeah. 2002 and.

Laura: [00:37:14] Then. Yeah, and I went to community college for a while. Then I went to a different community college. Then I got a scholarship to the Pratt Institute in New York City. Uh, then I went on a crazy adventure that did not involve higher learning of the academic sort, but it did involve some higher learning. Um, and then I went to another community college, and then I finally went to Cal State and earned my degree. And I think I graduated 2002. I would have to look it up. I don’t even know where to go to look it up. Maybe it’s on my LinkedIn profile. Hold on. Linkedin knows. I’m literally looking at my own LinkedIn profile to find out when I graduated from college.

Doug: [00:38:01] Anyway, Friendster. Um, so. Yeah, I think I dallied with Myspace, but the I was well into forums, especially because I’m such a geek.

Laura: [00:38:13] Oh well then hold on. I have to rephrase because I actually started like, uh, chat rooms and forums when I was like 11 or 12. I was very into Yahoo, Yahoo chat rooms, Yahoo pipes, Yahoo, all that, all the Yahoo things. At the very beginning of the internet.

Doug: [00:38:32] You were Yahoo!

Laura: [00:38:33] I was a Yahoo! Yeah.

Doug: [00:38:35] But so if you think about all the different kind of social spaces and everything like that, you on which of those do you think had the biggest influence on like shaping you as a person professionally, personally? Whatever. Hmm. Like the interactions that you had there, I guess.

Laura: [00:38:57] I mean, I guess it would have to. I mean, I actually gave a talk about this once at, um, at Fitc in Amsterdam. Um, back when I was working for Mozilla, I gave a talk about that, like, started off about my, you know, history of Yahoo chat rooms. And one of the things that I used to do when I was 11, 12 years old is I pretended to be someone I wasn’t in those in those chats. So I pretended to be a 30 year old surf instructor. I pretended to be a man. I, you know, I had a bunch of different identities depending on Laura’s mood at the time. And then I would have random conversations with people. And I think that I think that that actually shaped me quite a bit this like. Impermeable thing about identity. Like we get to decide who we are. We still do every day. And yes, like, you know, you fall more and more as you get older. You become your more authentic self or whatever, but you actually have a choice about who you are.

Doug: [00:39:56] I’m assuming, like your mother had no clue what you were doing. Oh my.

Laura: [00:40:00] God, no.

Speaker3: [00:40:01] Not because I was.

Doug: [00:40:02] Reading all kinds of like, right wing libertarian shit on the internet. Um, because that’s what was out there, along with like, lovely pictures of astronomy and porn and stuff. Um, but like, if I found my kids pretending to be someone else online in 2024. I don’t know how I’d feel about that. Hmm’hmm.

Speaker3: [00:40:28] I mean, because.

Doug: [00:40:29] Because of the world we’re now.

Laura: [00:40:31] Yeah. I think it’s a lot more dangerous now to. Yeah, to to experiment with identity the way that I did. Yeah. As a, as a child and know my mom had no idea what I was doing. I grew up with a single mom, so she had other things to do, like work, you know. Um, so we had a moment that.

Speaker3: [00:40:51] Yeah.

Doug: [00:40:52] The reason I’m talking about all of this is there’s an article on wired which I’ve put in the chat, which, um, the title of which is first gen social media users have nowhere to go now, of course, because it’s probably written by someone younger than us. It only goes back as far as Twitter.

Speaker3: [00:41:09] Oh, right.

Doug: [00:41:10] Well, as if that’s the as if that’s the first gen, you know, um, but it does make a good point in terms of like the whole point of social media in the early days was to bring society closer to this, like virtual ideal and social connection. And it says, um, social media stays less driven by actual social connection. It’s appeared by the appearance of social connection, which has had a bad impact on human relationships, on mental health, all that kind of stuff. And just saying, like, there’s no way for. The suggestion is that there’s nowhere for people who are around, about our age who, you know, used to hang out on on Twitter and Myspace and various other places like to go. And I think this was prompted by maybe the blue Sky app opening up and not needing an invite anymore. But it’s, you know, millennials are defined as being between the age of 27 and 42, which I would object to because I have only just turned 43.

Laura: [00:42:10] Well, I think like the second episode of this podcast that we ever recorded was called Geriatric Millennials.

Speaker3: [00:42:17] Yes. Yeah.

Laura: [00:42:18] So we’ve you know, I don’t know, I never really yeah, I’ve never really considered myself a millennial anyways because that wasn’t a term when I was younger. It seems like it, you know, it became a term what like in when did it become, you know, a mainstream term, millennial. Anyways, all of my friends were always Gen X, so I thought, I guess I’m a geriatric millennial. You’re right, we’ve already. But what do you think about that? Do you feel like you have nowhere to go?

Doug: [00:42:46] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I mean, if I think about places that I hang out, I freaking hate LinkedIn. I can’t stand it. Right? But I feel like I have to be there because the only place that, like, I’ve still got a connection with people who I used to hang out with on Twitter, like blue Sky, maybe that’s going to become more of a thing now that there’s that, you don’t need an invite. I think we talked about this maybe last time and whatever. I joined.

Laura: [00:43:13] It last.

Speaker3: [00:43:14] Time. Yeah.

Doug: [00:43:15] And like I’ve been on Mastodon since 2017 and on social co-op and various other things, but like, where is Twitter? I’d have it open all the time. I’d be posting all day, I’d be doing like, maybe I’m just older, maybe the world’s moved on, maybe both. But like just my my social online social life is fragmented into all these spaces and I don’t particularly like that.

Laura: [00:43:44] Which it does take a I mean, I find that nowadays. Someone from the past will cross my mind, and then I’ll go figure out where they are as opposed to people, you know, people from the past having like, you know, being part of my quote unquote stream, which is what it used to be like. It used to be people from the past were they were in my Twitter stream. I followed them at some point. And then, you know, Twitter helped me keep up with them. Um, but now, you know, LinkedIn is LinkedIn is not my stream. I don’t see everybody from the past in LinkedIn. I see a lot of corporate bollocks. Um. Yeah. I’m not sure I miss it though, to be honest.

Doug: [00:44:33] So, um, Morrissey, the former lead singer of The Smiths who has interesting, somewhat controversial political opinions and views towards anyone who’s not himself, but also whose autobiography has some of the best prose I have ever read in my entire life in the first few chapters. Um, he has got an album called Low in High School, in which there’s a young person standing in front of the gates of, I think, Buckingham Palace, and he’s holding a sign saying Axe the Monarchy. So that’s the kind of politics I can get behind. Anyway, on that album, he’s got a track called Spent the Day in Bed, which is just not only a wonderful tune, but got some fantastic lyrics. And the chorus to that song is stop watching the news, because the news contrives to frighten you, to make you feel small and alone, to make you feel that your mind isn’t your own. And I feel that way about LinkedIn. Yeah, because it makes me feel small and alone and that I’m not being successful and that everyone else is smashing it. And that actually I should just get with the program and I need to spend less time on LinkedIn.

Laura: [00:45:45] Yeah, you. I mean, it’s really not bringing value to your life.

Speaker3: [00:45:49] So you could just.

Doug: [00:45:50] On the other hand, someone I dunno, people find it quickly, but someone had put on on like must on the reverse that someone when people complain about, oh, I just find it confusing. I can’t find people or whatever on must on the fediverse. What they really mean is it’s not full of people running at each other about like people being woke and about the latest football scores and about like mainstream entertainment drama and stuff. And that’s why it’s such a chill space like. And yeah, some of it’s angry, but mainly angry about stuff which matters in the world rather than, you know, what some celebrity has said to another celebrity. Hmm. I wonder what blue sky is going to turn into. Because right now it’s kind of random shit I saw. Like the thing I just shared with my wife from there was the, uh, Iceland volcano erupting and someone casually taking their dog for a walk in the snow nearby.

Laura: [00:46:49] I don’t actually even know how to get to blue Sky.

Doug: [00:46:53]

Laura: [00:46:55] Yeah. Oh, yeah. I, uh, I’ve posted like three things to blue Sky. And the last one was. It looks like I needed incentive to post a blue sky, like, because I just, I don’t know if it’s the. Yeah, I don’t know. I haven’t started using it really, I joined it, I posted like two things, but if I’m going to post something, it’s probably on Mastodon anyways. But again, I don’t really post that much stuff.

Doug: [00:47:20] Right. Shall we wrap this up? Um.

Laura: [00:47:23] Yeah.

Doug: [00:47:24] So we might talk. So before, for context, you weren’t really up for recording an episode today because you said we didn’t have anything to talk about, and I etherpad were down, and someone might have listened to this, but even if it hasn’t, I’ve enjoyed this conversation. And I’ve learned some stuff about a new app that you use about something which I had forgotten, which you used to pretend to be a 30 year old surf dude.

Laura: [00:47:50] Um.

Doug: [00:47:50] And other things as well. Which when I listen back to this episode, which I always do, um, I will learn more stuff again.

Laura: [00:47:58] Yeah, I actually like the ramble chat season that we’re doing. It’s fun. I don’t know if it’s, you know, we might have, you know, zero hits on the internet, but I also don’t care.

Laura: [00:48:09] So boom, you know.

Doug: [00:48:11] As long as you know, it doesn’t matter how many people, uh, read or follow your stuff, as long as the right people are doing it and the right people might be zero.

Laura: [00:48:21] Ouch.

Laura: [00:48:24] Ouch. Um. And with those words of wisdom…Bye