Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Presence

2018 has been a year of loss and as I reflect on it all, I'm thinking of Christmas Presence a lot more than Christmas Presents.

For the last 5 years I have worked on the exact same goal that lead me to very nervously hitting that dreaded 'Publish' button on that first post. Articles like Lost in the Ghetto have never been far from my mind... along the way I've found invaluable resources like Collaborate Vs  Collaborate and There is No App for Patience.

There have been some big wins and plenty of reasons to be hopeful. For example, 2015 alone saw me
  • Connect with James Stanbridge (@Stanbridge) who saw the value in what I was working on 
  • Agreeing with Chris van der Kyul's #SLF15 keynote that Scottish educators need to collaborate more and that education lacked leadership
  • The Education Secretary asking me to share details of the #DigiLearnScot consultation with my PLN
  • Having enough experience with politicians to know that the positive cultural conditions would not last long... finding the Core Values that would allow me support any particular project or idea... but leave enough wiggle room to say 'I'm not as supportive of this any more if/when the culture changed.
  • Accurately predicting The SNP clean sweep in #GE2015 (And every election since then)
  • Accurately predicting that - at the height of their success (The weekend after GE2015 result) - that The SNP were in trouble because I spotted stage one of How the Mighty Fall: Hubris
  • My being involved with the first education movement and
  • Securing my first paid gig as a Community Manager via a career goal of working at a hot shot Silicon Valley start up.
But there have also been some tremendous lows too...and 2018 will be remembered as a year of painful losses
  • In August, the only home our three boys will have any memories of living in got repossessed. This was the result of non-payment of money that was assured for work that was carried out (Throw in the heartlessness of the Government owned 'Too big to fail' NRAM + DWP incompetence and complete apathy by the political class and you'll get an idea of how I felt about the matter. (Startups can be tough... So can edu & EdTech).
  • In April my Mother-in-Law was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away in November
  • In Sept/Oct a project I had developed since 2015 and worked on from Feb-Oct was supposed to do in 2018 what one in 2015 was supposed to do... But that progressed without my involvement toward the end.
  • In December, when "The funds were low and the debts were high" as the poem goes, I was ready to quit.
A few days before the funeral I was informed that our possessions that were in storage was at risk, as the account had fell into arrears. 

The day after the funeral, I turned to the only option that I felt was left - make the fact that we're facing some challenges public and try to crowd fund it.

I put a crowd funder together but didn't hold much hope that the amount needed would be raised. 

£700 may as well have been £1 million... So I contemplated on what I'd miss most about the next loss.

It was the photos and books - probably the reason why my last 2 posts have been full of extracts (The baby photos to follow in future posts no doubt. Lol. But if you can't wait til then a couple are in Tech Story).

Or if you prefer... Here is Alexander getting anointed as the King of Scotland. (Couldn't Resist. Lol)

An Unexpected Place of Healing
An Unexpected Place of Healing is the name of the Ted Talk of Declara Founder Ramona Peirson who found herself in an old folks home with 100 wise grandparents after numerous operations following hit by a drunk driver when she was running.

I found an unexpected place of healing regarding the challenges from this year, which was courtesy of Dexter Dias, and the stories in his book about The Ten Types of Human.

Sure we've had a tough time... But
  • We didn't have to sell one of our kids into slavery to make ends meet like Anthony's dad... 
  • Are not haunted for selling a baby like Anna is. 
  • We did not find that our best option for survival was a mirgant boat like Siara and Patrice escaping the Central African Republic, or 
  • Sold into slavery for trying to rescue girls like Lena from the sex trade
  • It doesn't take us an hour to 'Blink a paragraph' like Dawn does
We were lucky enough to have citizenship in a country that has a safety net... and connectivity to put a crowdfund together.

It might be tempting to wish that you were a citizen of this country and had a name like Fred Goodwin and/or were an old school chums of Vince Cable and co at RBS and/or NRAM when times get tough and were 'Too Big to Fail" so get billions within 24 hours. HOWEVER... Chris Sacca highlights how he knows:

"Some of these jerks personally and professionally and while young graduates may envy their private planes and chalets...I'm hear to assure you that every single one of them [corrupt liars in business] is haunted by demons. Their public denials come at such a compounding cost to their souls... their family and friends can smell the stink of dishonesty on their clothes" 

In this inspiring commencement speech where to advises young graduates to: Be Helpful

Stories in Dexter's book don't half put your own troubles into perspective... and remind me of The World is Mine poem..

The Ten Types of Human was a very personal example of how, if we stop and remind ourselves how much worse off others are to ourselves, you can find yourself to be extremely grateful for what you have.

The books are back and the 23 people who contributed to this crowdfunder have been in our thoughts and prayers like you would not believe!

All I want for Christmas... Is Christmas Presence
My mother-in-law lost the power of speech in the last few days and, as I highlight in my Family Matters post,

We sat the boys down and said that she had lost the power of speech and was on a lot of drugs, we then asked them if they wanted to see her to say goodbye, or if they’d prefer to remember her as she was.

As her health had deteriorated over the last few months, I asked the boys if they could remember what they talked about in the last proper conversation that they had with their granny.

I'm not sure that I could... But I can tell you what I can remember, with some regret.

I remember all the visits when I was busy doing 'important work' of one description or another trying desperately to find the money (that never came) to prevent us losing the house (that we lost).

How many of those visits where the 'important work' and had little affect on the overall outcome would I have traded for the opportunity to be totally, completely and 100% present? 

How many of those conversations that I felt were either pointless or irrelevant and/or about a topic I had no interest in would I like to go back to and be more involved with?

How often was I, not only not present, but completely stressed out and frustrated in the presence of the kids over the last few years... what impact did the stress and frustration have on the overall outcome of where we find ourselves today? Not one bit of a difference.

When Dexter mentions the word 'family' to his students it gets met with a mix of groans and laughs... but after a few stories and interventions his students soon change their tune.

Anther of those fantastic things called books helps to draw out the ridiculousness of our actions Vs the over all result.

In "What Got you here won't get you there" Marshall Goldsmith details the conversation he had with an executive who says he works such long hours so he can provide for his wife and keep her happy.

Goldsmith asks "How is that working out for you... with your fourth wife," noting that the other divorces being a result of the executives' work-a-holic tendencies. #IronyIs

So, with the benefit of reflection, some painful losses, Dexter's research and last but by NO MEANS LEAST, the kindness of 23 people and their generosity...

I have all I want for Christmas... the photos and books are back!

Furthermore, the kindness of those people helped to stemmed the losses of 2018 and helped facilitate the healing process. 

So I don't want any Christmas Presents this year... All I want is more Christmas Presence.

And any fans of The Alchemist might be interested to know that the point I stopped trying so hard with some of the EdTech/Startup/Professional goals things started happening.

“Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

"When one is truly ready for a thing, it puts in its appearance" Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

I'd like to end this post with my  faviourite quote which is Emerson's 'To Laugh often and Much"

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

...And I want the people who have offered with all their time and assistance this year to know that, if Emerson's description of success is accurate... then you have indeed succeeded, because we'll be breathing a little easier because of your time, kind words and support. 

Thank you all! Wishing you a Merry Christmas with lots of Presence... And a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year.

I know a few people in my PLN who are having a tough time, you're in our thoughts. 

We hope #NotAtISTE G+ community organiser Jen Wanger gets the best possible outcome from her CT results later in the week: The Journey Shifts & Jen Wagner Support

Friday, 21 December 2018

Bullies, 'Takers' & Ostracism

This post looks at how living by my core values can see me excluded from groups and how - through exploring the early online community The Well - these issues are by no means new... But research shows that social rejection is pretty painful (especially when you've invested a lot of time and effort), and looks at how ostracism in schools is shaping the attitudes of the tech community ...and can also have tragic consequences.

In my ACEing Made to Stick post I wondered how much of a lack of that all important 'sense of belonging' Scottish school girl Aqsa Mahmood felt when deciding to become an ISIS recruiter... The extracts in this post provide evidence of what social rejection does to people.

Since September 2015 I have being Using these Core Values and they have been applied regardless of the audience

  • Whether an Education Secretary
  • The so called 'life long family friends' (Their words, not mine) who claim they were #Shoulder2Shoulder with me (Again their words not mine)... before blocking me and deleting all posts and Tweets that featured our 'collaboration'... which effectively amounted to playing on my kind nature and taking all they could.
  • Or an idea that I work on for 3 years but if others ignore the recommended project guidelines and/or norms but then take over ...and just make stuff up and about how it all came together.

I've been taken in a fair bit by people with their compliments and flowery words... that is, of course, until they have gotten all the time, ideas and connections they can out of me, then it's

'Thank you very much... See ya sucker!'
(Indeed, sometimes there is not even a 'Thank you very much.' Lol) 

If you then have the gall to call people out on how their words and actions don't quite match up... you soon find yourself blocked (Even when it's accounts that you created and developed for 6 months before those people got involved with a project you have worked on over the course of a 3 year period?!).

I can't do much if others don't "Own Their Words," the mantra of The Well and the topic of my #DigCitSummitUK Closing Remarks post... but I do have a choice in how I react.

I have called people out on their BS... I also have qualitative and quantitative that suggests this is not uncommon in education communities on social media, which is part of the reason I'm writing about my experiences in this post.

I'm looking at some new projects and - as usual - before starting the planning stages, I have reviewed reports about The Well and was re-reading Howard Rheingold's (@hrheingold) 'Virtual Communities' (Howard featured in Michelle Cordy's 2016 ISTE Keynote) and saw that NodeXL's (@NodeXL) Marc Smith (@Marc_Smith) had done his Masters Thesis on The Voices of the Well.

I've read this document three times in the last 48 hours and noticed how:

1) The issues I've experienced are not new
2) That my reaction wasn't in any way unusual... In fact it would appear I have been entirely predictable

Indeed some commentators highlight that the reason Silicon Valley was such a collaborative place in the early days was because of William Shockley

"Shockley was such a massive asshole it is really hard to know where to start. He is most famous as the inventor of the point-contact transistor that would d​efine modern electronics. The achievement led to the establishment of Silicon Valley, and also won him the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics.
But according to his partners John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain, with whom he shared the Nobel,
 Shockley​ was a total fraud. They claimed that they had created the first working transistor without him, and only tacked his name on it after he threw a tantrum. According to Brattain, this photo from a publicity shoot for the transistor was "the first and last time William Shockley ever laid hands on it.

It's no surprise, then, that Shockley's collaborators kept fleeing him to found​ their own companies (one of ​which was Intel). It was simply impossible to tolerate Shockley's unbearable jerkness of being. He would publicly fire e​mployees, humiliate them with demotions, or try to take credit for their ideas." 
Standing on the Shoulders of Giant Jerks

5 Beloved Scientists Who Were Actually Bullies

This mirrors Nolan Bushnell's observations in 'Finding the Next Steve Jobs' and how the world is filled with poseurs.

"One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the years is that the business world (and by extension, the world itself) is filled with poseurs. these people are quite clever at figuring out what you want them to say, and then saying it exactly the way you want to hear it.

I first learned about the onmipresence of phonies during the early years of Atari. The custom chip business was very difficult and time consuming. And because it could take at least a year to get a completed custom chip working, a whole cadre of people posing as chip designers would always find ways to leave the company or get fired before the chip ever worked. Steve Jobs once told me that there were many employees at Apple who never got a single chip working. I told him it was the same at Atari. These people were able to go from job to job to job, doing something that seemed creative but yielding zero output. I remember one guy whose nickname became "I Almost Have It." Every time we'd ask if his chip was ready, that's what he'd say.

You have to be wary of poseurs. So how do you recognise them?

For one thing, don't rely solely on credentials in hiring. In the chip world, for example, someone can have terrific credentials in chip design without any ability to get a chip engineered. Such poseurs know how to build up a terrific looking resume. you'll soon find out it's their major talent.

The poseur's fundamental skill is the bluff. For some reason they don't feel a need to go past that, which is why they are easily unmasked. At Atari, I once hired two people who came from Hewlett-Packard. At the time, HP was considered the best company in the field. If you'd landed one of it's executives, you felt pretty lucky. These guys were like butter: so smooth, so polished, so frictionless. It turned out that they didn't know how to do anything except shine at an interview, and, once on the job, take credit for what their underlings did.

All of us have been taken in by poseurs at one point or another. The trick is to learn from the experience rather than endlessly repeat it" Nolan Bushnell, Finding the Next Steve Jobs

Any time I experience this kind of thing I make a conscious effort to ramp up my 'giving' because, as Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant) highlights in To be a Good Leader, you don't have to be a jerk

"People who have gotten burned too many times. In learning to stick up for themselves, they've over corrected [and become an ass hole]"

But I am aware of educators who have had similar experience with working on Twitter chats, Edcamps and/or other unconferences and then get a little more wary and less collaborative as a result.

Like the comment to Gerard above from Voices from The Well, any time I have felt people were using my collaborative nature to build their own online reputation based on my time, efforts and creativity... I've been just as clear about how I've felt about the situation.

And if people decide to make stuff up about me, my involvement, contribution or any he said/she said gossip, I remind myself of Plato's wise words

A couple of failed attempts, you might think... Well... Yes... and No.

Yes, because the projects didn't fulfill their potential.

No, because:

1) Marc's Voices of the Well highlights how tough (and fragile) these movements, projects and communities can be.

2) I'm learning all the time

3) Through examples like William Shockley, we know that the shared experiences of collaborating with an ass hole can lead to empathy and bonding of those who survived working with horrible people like him.

4) Finally, Sam Conniff Allende (@SamConniff) highlights in Be More Pirate (@BeMorePirate) how this is a typical scenario:

"In the workshops we run, this second stage is where things really get started, we break into crews and a sense of mutiny begins to fill the room. Making new rules can be complex, but that's not where we start; the first thing to do is get a crew to choose the one rule they collectively most want to break, and then begin the task of remaking it.

In this challenge, we've seen things get pretty heated; crews fight, split re-form and commit to actual rule breaking there and then. We find that when you really reconnect with that rule you know needs breaking, and actual alternatives begin to emerge, with a crew ready to change them, pirates begin to get serious" Sam Conniff Allende, Be More Pirate (P106)

I've been working on the same ideas since my first blog post in 2012... So it's just a case of continuing to get the experience... and finding people with that all important (and extremely elusive) combination of:

1) Shared values and
2) A shared vision.

If and when I've 'Told it like it is,' this has been very much for the reason that Howard Rheingold highlighted on The Well and the Tweet at the start of this post... in the hope of trying to warn others about what my experiences are and to articulate why I don't trust this person and/or that group?

HOWEVER... have I gone about articulating this in the right way? Erm... Perhaps... 'Most definitely NOT,' is the best answer to that question.

The reason I have not gone about things the right way can be found in 'The Ostraciser' chapter in Dexter Dias's book The Ten Types of Human.

But even if I had executed things better, the Kathy Bolkvac example demonstrates that you don't get any medals even if you take difficult decisions... Even if you are right.

On the other hand, as the Ten Types of Human extract from last post highlights via the brave women in post-earthquake Haiti, if there are enough whistle blowers coming together and shining a light on a situation... it can make a difference.

What's the alternative... a world with more Donald Trumps, Steve Bannons, Nigel Farages, Boris Johnstons poisoning the well nationally, as well as all the William Shockley's out there benefiting from others time and collaborative nature?

"They took the benefit of my work and made me contribute it as a gift" Ayn Rand's Howard Roark re: Cortlandt design

“A house can have integrity, just like a person...and just as seldom" Howard Roark

The rest of this post include extracts from Live Work Work Work Die and 'The Ostraciser' in Ten Types of Humans... I wonder if we'll see any game changing and/or global edchange as a result of these extracts?

I hope educators take on board the long term effects that being ostracized and socially rejected has on their students... speaking from experience: It fucking hurts! Check out Elon Musks experiences.

Elon Musk was Bullied and Lonely as a Kid - Then he Found Computers & Business

In September I read Lois Lowry's book The Giver and Corey Pein's 'Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley'... and when hearing that people like Peter Thiel have acquired New Zealand Citizenship and their private island there, you see how close a world of people living in Lowry's book is.

Live Work Work Work Die.
Justine Tunney 2014 blog post addressing "Silicon Valley and geeks in general" called for a "Nerd Nationalism" motivated primarily by personal resentment.

"We don't fit into this society and we never will... We're placed in public schools that bore us - when we're not being assaulted and ridiculed by bullies. We have trouble procreating because society finds us sexually repulsive. We're ridiculed in the press. We're unwanted in our communities. Angry kids throw bricks at our buses when we go to work. We're denied a voice in our government

...But a new day had dawned. We've grown powerful thanks to the tech industry. In many ways, I feel that geeks already rule the world, we just haven't figured out how to reign. So we need to up our game, get smart, and start asking ourselves what we can do to put the fear in all these people" Corey Pein (P232)

Chilling stuff! You should see the attitudes to 'The Aristocracy of Brains"...Be nice to the geeks and nerds kids, they just might be our new rulers soon.

Pokemon Go

"So, last question, and I want to get a little more personal. Why are you so obsessed with maps and location? 

…I grew up in a really isolated town in West Texas, so I kind of grew up daydreaming about other places …And I think a lot of people who grow up in small towns share that feeling of ‘I can’t wait to go out and see the wider world.’" John Hanke, Inside the Mind of Google's Greatest Idea Man 

The rest of this post includes extracts from The Ten Types of Human... With Nolan Bushnell highlighting that, like Elon Musk exemplifies, the bullied sometimes get to have the last laugh. Who can blame them if they 'can't wait to go out and see the world' then prefer to live in a homogeneous community of techies given these horrible early experiences.

The Ten Types of Human: The Ostraciser 

Big Brother 10

Sree Dasari applied for Big Brother 10 in 2009... but things did not go well for him... He was treated as an outsider. His heavy Indian accent was ridiculed by Marcus Akin. Dasari frequently misread social cues and misinterpreted the fragile social politics of the house. He earned the collective opprobrium of housemates by drinking the alcohol allowance of Russian resident, Angel. The Russian boxer was a teetotaler anyway, but it made no difference: the group considered that Dasari violated the norm. He was perceived as a disruptive and destabilizing presence in the House.

...When he was evicted he then had to run the gauntlet of a different kind... He was met with a deafening barrage of boos... He said in his eviction show that he didn't care about being evicted as it 'wasn't about winning or losing. It was about the experience.' A few weeks later, Sree Dasari slashed his wrists. (P93)

"Humans are animals. I think we all live under the threat of being punished. On all sorts of levels, in all sorts of ways. It does govern our behavior. Being ejected hurts" Marian Wong (Senior Lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences at Wollongong University and studies Goby fish).

...As we speak an article comes up on my Twitter feed 'How Loneliness can affect your mental health.' A study reveals that social isolation can increase your risk of having a stroke or coronary disease by 30%.

'I feel like I am completely unlovable,' says Miley, aged 32, who constantly suffers from depression.

'These are very real social problems,' Wong says. 'The shame and shunning across social animal species, same thing - to maintain the norms. We humans are such a social species that ostracism is bound to have a very powerful effect on us.'

In what way? To do what?

'To make us do what we wouldn't otherwise do. Our research shows just how amenable social animals are to being manipulated. That's the thing: the group norm influences us, whether the norm is a good one...or not' (P104)

To be evicted from a group, any group, involves a kind of social death. (107)

Analysis of the historical, anthropological and cross-cultural records attests to the ubiquitous presence of human ostracisation across time and space. In humans it can occur in a highly formalised fashion... such as shunning among close-knit communities like the Amish. It will be found in virtually every children's playground and in other kinds of playgrounds: The Internet and social media.

...Living with other human beings, as well as being the solution [To defense from other animals etc], is also a significant survival problem: the perennial problem of other people.

UN Police Officer - Exposing Bosnian Sex Traffickers

Kathy Bolkovac UN International Police Task Force, Drafted an email setting out everything she'd discovered about the abuse in Bosnia (Young girls being trafficked and authorities turning a blind eye). She sent it out to dozens of senior staff - both DynCorp and UN - all the way to the head of the UN mission in Bosnia. Her hope was it would burst the bubble. With it people would be brought to their senses. They'd wake up. How could they not?

...But this is what happened.... The abuse of hundreds of young women went on. The more Kathy spoke out about sexual enslavement, the more she was frozen out by colleagues. She was isolated in the cafeteria. She was avoided as if she carried a contagion..

People started interfering with her files... Papers went missing... Superiors removed her from cases... Her investigations were sabotaged... Her position became intolerable. She was redeployed, away from the Trafficking Office and human rights work. She was reassigned to check radios and answer the phone. Then she was suspended. A series of allegations were leveled against her. Then she was dismissed. The death threats began.

'You better be prepared to lose your job, lose your career, lose your financial savings, to lose your retirement, because you will be discredited, and they will do everything they can to harm you.' (118)

Kathy Bolkovac had been trying to expose the truth. But now she was out. She was ostracised. She sued DynCorp for unlawful dismissal. Her claim was that she was demonised and ostricised because she had made what in the law is called a 'protected disclosure'. She blew the whistle. It led to a bitterly contested court case. During the proceedings, DynCorp admitted that three of its staff had been sacked for using prostitutes. One of them, the company accepted, had 'bought' a 'sex slave' and kept her in his apartment. He'd paid $700.

Bolkovac won. The court found that DynCorp had sacked her because of her efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking cases and exposing corruption.. The tribunal chair said,

'It is hard to imagine a case in which a firm has acted in a more callous, spiteful and vindictive manner'

But Kathy has found ot impossible to resume her career in international law enforcement.. She has become a 'marked woman'.. None of the officers implicated in the sex trafficking and prostitution in Bosnia has ever been prosecuted. DynCorp subsequently won a series of lucrative military contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, among other places. DynCorp announced being awarded a US State Department contract to provide policing services in Iraq three days after dropping its appeal against Kathy's unfair dismissal verdict.

'When you blow the whistle,' Kathy says, 'history and experience over the years show that the odds will be stacked against you. That's what I've learned from the whistle blowers I've met Since'

Kathy Bolkvac was in the end excluded from the group. She has not subsequently returned. She did carry a contagion. It was the truth. In the opaque twilight world of illicit brothels and backstreet bars in which young women were incarcerated and outside which international agency vehicles would pull up for business, she had indeed violated a norm. She had dared challenge the squalid status quo. She had disrupted the quiet complicity of the strange micro-world that was raw and ravaged post-conflict Bosnia.

If ostracism is indeed used by group members as a form of threat management and social control, in the dysfunctional world that operated almost autonomously in post-conflict Bosnia, Kathy Bolkovac was considered a threat. Not only was she a threat, but the truth was.

It was too dangerous for the status quo; disastrous to the perpetuation of the harmful and profitable practices that had flourished following the international intervention. It would threaten jobs, careers and wallets, greed, lust, power; it would call into sharp question the legitimacy of the international mission.

How could a risk of that magnitude be managed? By ostracizing the messenger.

There is another reaction, of being seen not to conform, of not belonging, may have contributed to the institutional indifference to the human rights abuses that Kathy Bolkovas uncovered. Other people suffer; we stay within the safe circle. And so it continues: the circle and the suffering.

It feeds on our need to fit in. It preys on the pain that keeps on giving. It takes the courage of a Kathy Bolkovac to defy it.

Eventually Bolkovac's tireless advocacy of the rights of young exploited women led to officials suspected of being implicated in the trafficking having to resign. More needs to be done, much more. None of them were prosecuted.

'Charges were never brought because no one allowed any of the investigations to be completed' Kathy says

'You know, over the years people keep asking me where I got the strength from. How I did it and didn't back down, even though I was shut out, targeted, attacked. Well, it's a pretty simple thing...Right is right and wrong is wrong... I think it pretty much comes down to that.'

Compare this with the news today that a parent in Scotland got accused of bullying their local council when she complained about bullying at her child's school?!

Frozen Out Frisbee

Man (Kipling Williams Professor of Psychology at Purdue University) and dog were taking a rest on the grass by a lake, sitting on a blanket, pretty much minding their own business, when something rolled along the ground and into his back. Williams turned to see it was a Frisbee.

'I turned and saw two guys waiting for it. So I picked it up and threw it back to them and thought nothing more of it. Who wouldn't do that? But to my surprise, the guy who caught it threw it back towards me. We didn't speak, but we started playing Frisbee.'

In the complex lexicon of park politics, where we come up close to unsorted strangers, it was, Williams says, 'an invitation'. The game proceeded with the usual forehand flicks, backhands and hammer throws. Then after about two minutes, and just as suddenly, the men stopped tossing the Frisbee in William's direction.

'At first, I found it kind of funny. Like they were playing around with me. Then I realized that Frisbee is not heading in my direction again.'

Williams was out.

'The thing made me feel foolish. Bad, tremendously bad. It was awkward, a kind of humiliation. I felt hurt.'

He tried to rationalise it. Just a few moments before he didn't even know the existence of these people. In all likelihood would never see them again.

'So why am I feeling this bad for something this trivial? Why should I actually care?'

Kip Williams knew it was important; he knew it spoke to something important to us. It hurt him.

'By cutting me out of the game, they made me feel invisible... as though I had never existed'

The Frisbee game had only lasted 2 minutes. How and why did that rejection actually hurt? He wondered. What kind of pain was it? He knew he had to bring it under experimental control.

Social ostracism is something he had wanted to research for 8 years and hadn't worked out a way to do it. Now a Frisbee game gave him a clue. He would play Frisbee. Cyber versions of it.

'It was a really clean way to manipulate it in a lab'

In the laboratory at Purdue, Williams and his colleagues began using a number of strategies to manipulate human encounters. They loaded the dice in carefully constructed cyber games; direct the pain; exclude some volunteers; have others ignored or rebuffed. Some people are ejected from chat rooms. For others, it's simply the sting of an averted glance. Whatever the device, it's directed at delivering social pain.

'We wanted to see how minimal we could make this event and still get feelings of ostracism' Williams says.

He succeeded. There is now a substantial body of experimental research documenting how the brain registers this pain. The research shows that we recruit the same or similar neural systems as when we experience trauma that is physical. Thus brain structures are activated such as the anterior insula, which assesses pain severity, and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to the emotion of physical pain.

Naomi Eisenberger (UCLA Psychology Department) states in her article 'Broken Hearts and Broken Bones' that although we are able to distinguish between the two types of pain, it appears that they share neurobiological and neural substrates... When people speak of social rejection, they use phrases like 'he hurt my feelings,' or 'she broke my heart.' This applies across cultures, with social pain described in terms of physical pain in almost every language. In fact, over the course of evolutionary history, she believes, the social bonding/attachment system may have 'piggy-backed' onto the physical one. Thus the mental module may not have developed independently. It may not be entirely freestanding. But the social pain people describe is more than just a metaphor. It actually hurts.

One of the remarkable findings of this line of research is that for all our bluster and posturing, as Williams says, social pain

'Hurts us all about the same in its initial effect and personality doesn't appear to make much difference at first. The variance is in how we cope, that's where the individual difference kicks in, but we are all hurting about as much.'

Pain is a method of social control. It is used across the animal kingdom by all kinds of social animals. Groups that ostracize deviant or onerous members become more cohesive. Concomitantly, however, the prospects for ostracized animals are not good.

'When you're out, you're eaten' Marian Wong

In 2013 Joshua Unsworth was in Year 11 at St Cecilia's Roman Catholic High School in Longridge, Lancashire. He lived with his mother and father in a converted farmhouse in the nearby ancient village of Goosnargh. But Joshua was also on Ask.FM. The site is a social media hub created by two Russian entrepreneurs, Ilya and Mark Terebin, the sons of a Red Army soldier. It is based in Riga, Latvia, beyond real regulation. Controversially, the site allows users to post comments or questions to other users anonymously. This feature has been called by child protection charities a 'stalker's paradise'

While he was on, Joshua was repeatedly told over a period of time that no one liked him. One of the messages read,

'Honestly no one cares for you even your parents don't want you, there gonna put you in care'

On 4th April 2013, at 6.50am, Joshua Unsworth was found on land behind the family's farmhouse. He had hanged himself. Paramedics were called but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Just months before these events, Josh posted a YouTube video in which he said he'd seen how much despair there was on social media among young people. He said he'd come up with an idea to help. He would try and support anyone who felt isolated and alone by posting his mobile number; he offered anyone who needed it 'a friendly chat.' Joshua was 15 years old when he died.

In 2000, Williams and colleagues published a study he had conducted with colleagues at Purdue. Using a computerized version of the Frisbee throwing in the park that he called Cyberball, they had 1,486 people play a ball-toss game. The cover story they told participants was that the study was interested in 'mental visualization' of who was playing, what the temperature was like, and it was irrelevant who got the ball. In fact, it was all about who got the ball. After a few early inclusions, the research volunteer would be excluded as the others players on the screen carrier on without them - as if the volunteer was no longer there. Invisible. Those who suffered this social rebuff - albeit a virtual one - when subsequently interviewed reported significantly reduced levels of self esteem, control, belonging and meaning in their life. It wasn't 'real': It was a virtual game with anonymous others they did not and would never meet. Nevertheless they experienced it as real pain.

'This was in contrast to those who were included, so it is a statistically reliable reduction. Something real happened' Williams says.

Even when some selected players were in fact computer-generated and not other humans down the cyberconnection, they still were adversely affected. This led Williams and his colleagues to conclude this was a pretty 'primitive' reaction, something deep down.

'We could see it. They were in an MRI magnetic chamber, and their brain activities when they didn't get the ball. We could see a significant activation of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex which is the same region of the brain that is activated when people experience physical pain'

There are now over 175 published papers of studies or analyses of Cyberball alone. People have been studies playing it from the ages of 7 to 85. In one parallel study in the Netherlands, participants kept feeling the pain of rejection, even when being passed the ball would cost them financially. People continued to want to play with others even if the game involved tossing an imaginary explosive that could at any moment obliterate everything.

'Think of it this way, it's the conceptional equivalent of feeling bad when you're not invited to play Russian roulette. That's how strong the urge is' Kip Williams

Ostracism threatens our need to feel we belong, that we are worthy of attention - are not invisible. It is a pain, Williams says, 'that keeps on giving.' The reaction to such social rejection can be both fundamental and fierce.

On Wednesday 24th November 2004, it was the first period of the last day of school before Thanksgiving at Valparaiso High School, Indiana.

James Lewerke, a 15 year old class member, offered to close the classroom door and turn off the lights for the video. He stood. His teacher, Ashley Dobis, daughter of the State Representative Chet Dobis, thought he was being polite. Students tended to behave well with her. They liked her. So when Miss Dobis gave permission, Lewerke got up. He was a generally quiet boy with pretty good grades. But when he turned to face the class, Dobis says, 'He just had a look in his eyes.' James Lewerke pulled out a machete and a serrated tree saw.

He slashed 7 of his classmates with the weapons.

As he rushed out of the room, several courageous teachers tackled him. One of them kicked a weapon along the school corridor. Later Lewerke told the police that he targeted his fellow pupils indiscriminately because

'They were all the same to him'

In the aftermath of his rampage, it was reported by the Indianapolis Star that

'He was so invisible at High School this fall that students who sat next to him didn't even know his name'

'To repair the pain of invisibility, we may provoke other people into paying attention to us, to force others to recognize our existence. Ostracism is a thread that weaves through case after case of school violence' Kip Williams

In 2003, Mark Leary and colleagues published meta-analysis of school shootings in the US since 1995. They called it, 'Teasing, Rejection, and Violence.' They found that 87% of incidents had as a major contributory factor acute or chronic social rejection. In that period, 40 children had been shot dead in their school corridors and classrooms.

'They are past wanting to be liked or readmitted into society, they may even want to be immortalised for their actions, even their death. By doing what they're doing they're going to get noticed. They'll be invisible no more'

'When Animals experience extreme physical pain,' Naomi Eisenberger, speaking in Reject, a film about ostracism, says 'one of thier first responses is to attack whatever's nearby. This sheds some light on why people may be aggressive after they feel rejected. The extent to which there's some overlap between the system that regulates physical pain and the system regulating pain of rejection, means people may become aggressive in response to social rejection'

'I'm not insane, I'm angry' Luke Woodham, 16, to psychiatrists when arrested in 1997 for opening fire with a hunting rifle in a cafeteria at Pearl High School, Mississippi. He killed two, wounded seven.

'All throughout my life, I was ridiculed, beaten, hated'

...Cognative systems are likely to have developed to solve recurring vital survival problems, including the problems of group living. Deviance from the norm may trigger similar systems to those directed at distancing from contagion. Group members who loyally hold onto the pervasive group norm avoid individuals who depart from or transgress it in a similar way to that in which they avoid disease-bearers. As such, ostracism amounts to a social isolation which can be viewed as a kind of quarantine, with the ultimate sanction being total group isolation.

As it floated and shimmered through the air towards him, the Frisbee that changed Kip William's intellectual life carried with it a message about human communication and connection. Of course, tossing a ball or a Frisbee by oneself can provide the same aerobic and energetic workout, more so if we wish. It's just not phenomenologically rewarding for humans - at least some of the time. But simultaneously, we have a residual, often unvoiced, fear of the fun stopping, of it being taken away, of our being unfriended, unfollowed.

What is all this for?

Beyond a few, relatively rare exceptions, most of us need the impromptu Frisbee games of life with strangers. The opportunity for fruitful future interaction means that the sting of social rejection may be an avoidance adaptation to encourage steering clear of behaviors that lead to exclusion, a method for promoting social bonds. In broad agreement, Williams says,

'I think it has an evolutionary basis. We have evolved as social animals, and it's important for the survival of a social animal to maintain a connection with others. So we are wired to detect hints that we could lose it.'

But that group connection is not free, it comes at a cost.

Groups have norms - rules. Ostracism or its threat operates as a form of social control, the enforcement of norm conformity - even if it is not fair or equitable, even if it is pathological and harmful. The power of ostracism derives from its targeting of our vulnerabilities and insecurities: The fear of not belonging - ultimately, of being alone.

'So as we have seen, interesting patterns of behavioral responses to ostracism. For many people, they will conform more to a unanimous group, even if that group is clearly wrong in their perceptional judgments. They will go along with it. They will be more likely to comply, to obey a command' Kip Williams

In other words, they become more susceptible to social influence, to avoid, as Williams puts it, the 'kiss of social death'

We ostracize; we are ostracized. We are the Ostraciser; we are it's victim. Ostracism lances surgically straight into our mind. Neural systems fire; avoidance systems are engaged; social pain feels like real pain. It is real. Whether the mental module has developed independently or recruited pre-existing systems for physical pain, we are constantly alive to its signals. Acceptance, rejection, they matter. Rejection can lead to serrated tree saws in the classroom; blooded knives being kicked along school corridors; the slashing of wrists after a reality TV eviction; a well meaning boy like Joshua Unsworth walking quietly out of his parents farmhouse and into the trees.

The Last Laugh...?
While Justine Tunney's comments are a little in 'your face' and harsh... In chapter 11 of 'Finding the Next Steve Jobs' Bushnell suggests that employers 'Find the Bullied'

"Many creatives believe in themselves and their own creativity. They were often those kids who knew they were smarter than everyone else in the class - and still believe it. They're often right. That's why they can be so obnoxious.

Many other creatives, however, were the ones who were pushed around and mocked for being different, for having odd ideas, or for dressing strangely. The other kids made fun of them all the time. The teachers tried to knock some sense into them. Their parents despaired of their ever being 'Normal.'

Some of these kids faught back, but many didn't. Nothing makes people conform quicker than the fear of getting hurt, bullied or mocked. Pain is a great motivator.

As surely as other kids, teachers, and parents can knock the creativity out of children, companies can knock the creativity out of their employees, running their self-confidence along the way. That's particularly true if the person's identity is constructed around creativity. It's almost impossible to maintain your sense of self worth if you propose interesting idea after interesting idea and your company refuses to adopt any -or even, perhaps, entertain any. Worse, the company may mock them.

This response is a form of bullyingas bad as the schoolyard variety. How frustrating and unhappy it makes a creative - all those great ideas they would have brought the company have amounted to a heap of nothing, and now they sit around in the office, feeling terrible about her ability to perform.

A great number of companies brag about the creative people they have on staff. But this is not because they actually experiment with creative ideas. It's because they know it sounds good to say they have a creative company, wether or not they let their creatives do anything. Meanwhile, their poor, underutilised creatives are slowly trained into believing that creativity just gets them into trouble. And so, at their next job interview, they downplay their creativity.

"I don't think I want to go through that again" they think "I'll play it safe this time"

These creatives need to find a job where they can be, well, creative - who they truly are. At some point you will be sitting across from one such person at a job interview. Draw them out. Make them feel at ease. Maybe they won a poetry competition at school, or first prize at a science fair, or was the lead in a local play. They have learned over the years to hide this part of themselves, which is actually her most valuable and interesting characteristic.

Some of my best employees have come from companies where their talents were totally wasted. I remember one particularly toxic comapny that put together a little show of their employees' creative ideas. They were never going to put these ideas on the market, but they wanted to show them off to shine a spotlight on their originality. The employees who really excelled at this event were the ones who never got their ideas across at any other time. This demo turned into something of a job fair for these people - all of them were picked off by other employers who saw their full potential.

Warning to companies that refuse to foster their creatives: Don't put on a show to highlight these employees for your competitors.

I'm off to explore some of the loving kindness meditation I've been reading about in Robert Wright's book... and send some 'Beams' to a few people... Because you never know if/when you might bump into old 'friends' and 'collaborators' again.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Me & My Books

This post is the first of a few updates following on from my Please Help! Post and highlights:
  • How much life long learning means to me (With a huge shout out to the Open University!), 
  • Why reading for pleasure matters... A LOT! 
  • The importance of trying to "Connect the Dots" and "Trust the Currents" 
  • Taking chances is no more risky than sticking with the status quo... and 
  • How the status quo for the most marginalised remains unchanged. Despite #TheAttainmentGap
In the News This Week...
"Mr Trump caused Micheal Cohen to follow a path of darkness rather than light" and saw him sentenced to a 3 year prison sentence for paying porn stars off, lying to congress about talks with Russia and tax evasion.

The whole Brexit shambles that people like Boris Johnston, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage supported.

Teacher recruitment remaining a problem and literacy rates higher in affluent areas Vs deprived areas in Scotland.

Theresa May saying that Tech companies need to do more as Eastwood High School student Ben Mckenzie commits suicide because of bullying.
A CMX update highlights that there's speculation that large social networks has 'Peaked'... Something I spotted after reading Katie Hafner's book about 'The Well' a few years ago.

If anyone thinks that these 'Leaders' have the answers, I'm afraid to say that I can't help thinking that you're in for a shock.

And if you think that the systems that are supposed to be in place to support people when they need it... Stay tuned on this blog, BOY! Do I have some stories for you!!

My Week... and My Year
2018 has been a year of stress, challenge and loss. In spite of this from Feb-Oct I played a significant role in making an idea I had and project I have been working on since 2015 to life... Regardless of what others say about how the idea all came together in a couple of months etc etc.

To prevent further loss I had to do what I came to see as the modern day equivalent of what Cinderella Man's Jim Braddock did when he went cap in hand to the Boxing association as I was desperate to prevent the losses from going any further.

I've helped others with their crowdfund efforts, and I've had no problem with the concept when it's been helping others out... However, it felt a lot different when it was myself asking for help, I wonder if it was because it was a personal appeal Vs for a professional purpose.

"You just don't want folks to see you down is all" Joe Gould, Cinderella Man

But following the costs of, a funeral, it was the only option... and it worked! We've spent the last week with boxes all over the place... and I've told the boys about the 23 people who helped us out at such a distressing time. Much gratitude to each and every one of you!!

Over the last few years I've known exactly what I've been trying to achieve... but simply didn't appreciate the time that it would take, the losses that would be incurred (Optimism Bias), the role geography would have and - not for the first time - how little "The System" and people who are supposed to be there to help would be so completely MIA.

But, as Seth Godin highlights, we are in a Race to the Bottom... What's the bigger risk today?

1) Being involved in Scotland's retail, call centre industry or cold calling people with calls no one wants for products that are undifferentiated... Or

2) Taking the time to re-skill.

Earlier in the week I was asked to write my own job description and send it over and applied for a #Cmgr role for a job where I've got some hard fought for experience and am already an active member of that particular community?

So I guess time will tell which was the greatest risk.. I fear that a lot of people who stayed with the status quo is about to experience some of what we have gone through.

What's Important?
The Christmas break is always a great time for reflection for most people, given the losses that stacked up I reflected beyond the minutiae of day-to-day life and asked myself:

"What's Really Important?"

What's really important out of all those boxes in storage that were at risk?

All the photos and my Books... was the answer.

What's really important in life, if there was one single thing that I achieved in life, what would it be?

It's what I tell my kids regularly - to 'Find their place in the world' and never stop til they find it (The Alchemist is among one of my all time faviourite books that all 3 boys have read).

My Books
I am reading The Alchemist as a bed time story to my 8 year old son... So understand that it's always darkest just before dawn.

I've also read Ceohlo's latest book Hippie and if you want some of my fav examples of how this counter culture changed the world check these articles out.

The Epic Saga of The Well
1960s rebels - Stewart Brand Tech Visionary

I also picked up Dexter Dias' 'The Ten Types of Human' last week and simply could not put it down!

If you subscribe to Myers-Briggs my personality type is INFJ and this 10 Secrets of INFJ's article highlights that:

"It’s not unusual for INFJs to absorb other people’s emotions. They don’t just sense the emotions of others — sometimes they actually feel them in their own bodies"

...And some of the case studies sure felt draining and I was not able to sleep thinking of some of those people.

In no small part due to the impact that Dexter's book had on me - and having all those wonderful resources that were a few short weeks ago, at risk of being lost to us - I also updated my Goodreads page.

Through Dawn Faizey Webster and her awesome 'Tamer of Terror' example (Check out this Could you Blink your Way Through a Degree video) and the books on my faviourtes goodreads collection I was reminded of how much my Open University Human Geography course meant to me.

I hardly picked up a book outside of school work when I was younger, that changed when I was 29 and signed up for an Open University course and Natures Metropolis and The Life and Death of Great American Cities was recommended reading as preparation for DD304.

Dexter's book reminded me of both books and, in particular, the potential that we have within us:

"When Jimmy Rogan fell through a plate-glass window (he was separating some scuffling friends) and almost lost his arm, a stranger in an old T shirt emerged from a bar, swiftly applied an expert tourniquet, and, according to the hospital’s emergency staff, saved Jimmy’s life. Nobody remembered seeing the man before and no one has seen him since. The hospital was called in this way: a woman sitting on the steps next to the accident ran over to the bus stop, wordlessly snatched the dime from the hand of a stranger who was waiting with his fifteen-cent fare ready, and raced into the Ideal’s phone booth. The stranger raced after her to offer the nickel too. Nobody remembered seeing him before, and nobody has seen him since" Jane Jacobs, The Life and Death of Great American Cities

This book would make an appearance again as it appeared in a #Cmgr recommended reading book and the amazing story of the early online community via Katie Hafner's book The Well and the communities Founder Stewart Brand with his 'How Building's Learn'

The examples of how areas successfully 'Unslummed' were of particular interest... as was Andrew Mawson's experiences in Bromley-in-Bow.

An inconvenient comment for policy makers in this book is the following: 

"The real tragedy is that, broadly speaking, the areas of deprivation in the UK have not shifted a great deal since Dickens Day, and any talk of a new approach of the kind I fervently believe would work has led to nothing but lots of strategizing, meetings, papers, conferences, seminars, websites...and when the money runs out, there is nothing left to show, no tangible results and so, of course, the show moves on." Andrew Mawson, The Social Entrepreneur 

The SNP, who in case you need reminded, have been in power for over a decade... and in the (cheap seat) view that I have, I don't see them making a dent in the #AttainmentGap... as 59 of the UK's most deprived areas are in Glasgow.

Which leads nicely onto another book that had a huge impact on me was Theodore Dalrympole's 'Life at the Bottom' and his assessment in the Lost in the Ghetto chapter that:

One of the terrible fates that can befall a human being is to be born intelligent or sensitive in an English slum. It is like a long, slow, exquisite torture devised by a sadistic deity from whose malevolent clutches escape is almost impossible.                                                                                                                      

I wonder if people like Anthony & Michael or Patrice & Saira or Vasily & Lena who we meet in 'The Ten Types of Human' would agree? Their stories certainly helped put my own troubles into sharp focus.

I may have my troubles but at least I didn't need to sell a child into slavery to try to make ends meet, or get duped into accepting a job in Moscow only to find that my 'Employer' was selling me into the sex trade.

(For any Ayn Rand fans out there I challenge you to read about Vasily & Lena and not think about 'We the Living)

But Dalrympole also highlights that the suicide rates decline when there are world events on... Whether it be the Iraq War or the World Cup. Would more exposure to these people's stories and a lot less Trump, Farage etc 'othering' help to put our own problems into perspective and lead to more tolerance and empathy.

Given our obsession with "Strictly" instead of celebrities looking to revive their career, perhaps we could have refugees telling their stories and people can vote whether they'd give them refuge or not.

Or instead "I'm a Celeb" being set in the Australian jungle, perhaps we could have 'I'm a Celeb get me off the refugee boat" and see if they change their far-right hate speech after the experience.

The Desert & Diamonds

In The Alchemist young Santiago lease his native Spain and crosses the desert to Egypt in search of his treasure, only to find his treasure is a little closer to home.

In The Ten Types of Humans we hear about the impact treasure and diamonds is having in the Central Republic of Africa... and how much easier (and more welcome) the diamonds are Vs people like Saira (Who's father told her 'Anything is Possible')

"Is it true what they say? That the Europeans don't want us to come? That they hate us?"
"Many. Not everyone"
"But Many?"
"I love my country. But they try to kill me there"

And that is the tragedy of the refugee from chaos: both loving their home and needing to flee human aggression.

"Do you have any idea how you will cross the Mediterranean?"
"It must be boat...The desert... Even worse"

I flew out of Yaounde on Air France for Paris. The flight map showed that we were heading right over the heart of the Sahara... in a safe sanitised cabin in a couple of hours. It would likely take Patrice and Saira many weeks or months to do the same.

...I snatch from my pouch in front of me Air France's Madame Magazine... almost every other ad is for Jewellery. I hadn't noticed the sheer extent of it before - From Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels at the front, through Buccellati, Chaumet, Chopard, Boucheron, Piaget, Bulgari, Pasquale Bruni, to Chanel's full page back cover, all of them - Diamonds" Dexter Dias (P375)

ACEing Made to Stick
In New Power one of the only Scottish examples was how school girl Asqa Mahmood was an ISIS recruiter who was running rings round US Counter Terrorists and I questioned the lack of any 'Sense of Belonging' would have led to this.

Glasgow flourished from the slave trade, not something that can be said of Haiti

"The islanders warmly greeted Columbus and his troop of newly arrived Europeans. As Columbus himself wrote:

'They have no steel or weapons, nor are they capable of using them, although they are well built people of handsome stature, because they are wonderous timid... Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts.'

There are a number of contemporary reports about what subsequently happened after Columbus's 'discovery'. One comes from Bartolome de las Casas...and like Columbus, was struck by the very particular character of the indigenous inhabitants.

'Now of the infinite multitude of humanity these are the most innocent simple guileless, most devoid of malice... and live without the least thirst after revenge, laying aside all rancour, commotion and hatred.'

De las Casas was given a royal grant of land and documented carefully what he witnessed, later publishing his account back in Spain. In due course it would be banned. He wrote that his European countrymen began to 

'Carry our massacres and strange cruelties. They attacked the towns and spared neither children, nor the aged, nor pregnant women, nor women in child bed' and observed that among his fellow Spaniards 'It was a general rule to be cruel; not just cruel, but extraordinarily cruel so that harsh and bitter treatment would prevent Indians from daring to think of themselves as human beings'

Consequently, the native population of Hispaniola was either killed or enslaved or died from the disease the Europeans carried. 

...Haiti was a tremendously lucrative slave colony. Perhaps the most profitable. Dexter Dias (P396)

Little People who together make Big Changes
Susan Cain's work, with examples from Rosa Parks, Dr Seuss and Steve Wozniak continue to have a huge impact on us.

Obviously Dr Who visited Montgomery in a memorable episode... I was able to introduce Rosa Parks to our kids from a super young age thanks to Dr Seuss and a Little Turtle named Mack, who coughed.

Check out how these formidable women took on the 'Tribes' that formed after the Haiti earthquake:

Tented cities appeared. There were no communities. There were no streets. There were only fragments of families left.

The world was new. How would people live? People in Haiti did what humans have probably always done: They formed groups. That part of us that is very old surfaced anew. Very quickly there were new associations between people with old ways gone. A new Them, a new Us - New tribes. Some people gave food to strangers, to people who had in common with them the gift - the small miracle - of having survived. But there were others - Looters. Looters would kill for anything, for a bag of rice in your hand. They dragged people out of cars. Shot the driver. Took the vehicle. Some were former neighbours, but there was no longer anything resembling a neighbourhood. The world this side of Hispaniola was new.

The looters carrier sticks, machetes, iron bars, sharpened pieces of wood, anything. Some shop owners armed themselves... Gangs formed along roads and created roadblocks. They demanded money for passage. They instituted a new form of taxation. Sometimes bodies were piled up to form roadblocks.

How quickly it happens. But predictably? What was coming out? Gangs of thieves and looters were arriving from outside the capital. But many were already there. The main prison collapsed. All 4,000 prisoners were able to escape.

Sex became a currency. People - men - with keys to stores demanded payment. What was a desperate young mother to do? Or a teenage daughter with a father dead and a young mother dying from her crushing injuries? The world divided anew. Two tribes: the haves and have-nots.

"When the quake hit us the world, it ended" says Madam Phisline "There was no safety, no fence, everyone crammed together in a small area. You can't stop the bad guys getting in, running around everywhere. I never before understood how valuable this is... How precious a thing is a door. A lot of girls who got attacked were attacked going to the bathroom at night. The men were watching. They were waiting...One minute I had a house, my own home, and I loved it, and then I was in a tent. How are people supposed to live in tents? Suddenly there was no rich and poor, everyone was in tents.

The earthquake happened on Tuesday. The men came out on Thursday. So quickly all this badness comes out. You see, people were saying 'beware, beware, the walls of the prison have fallen.' Hundred of prisons had escaped...For these men there were two groups: them and their victims. Everything had been reduced to that.

...When you live in a camp, you don't know who your neighbour i. It could be anyone, everyone, a gang member, a rapist, a drug addict, a crazy person, anyone. But what could we do? We decided to do something about it. To fight back. One of the things we did was to get whistles. Most of the latrines were outside the camp. We gave women training, told them the whistle was not a toy but a tool, a weapon - our weapon... I once took a CNN crew to one of the camps and blew my whistle. So many women came running, the film crew couldn't believe it.

'Women's groups organised themselves. They got people who knew martial arts to train them. Women watched over the camps at night. They worked hard to during the day to earn money to buy torches and whistles. At night, they fought off the men waiting to attack the girls. They began to fight back. There was noone there to protect them, so they thought they'd help themselves. What else can you do?  (P408)

The Well, Be More Pirate, New Power all show us what small but committed groups are capable of...

If you take the time to read 'Fire and Fury' you'll get an idea of just how much a small group of unlikely underdogs can get done.

I don't agree with his policies at all, but Steve Bannon saw an opportunity that few others did and took full advantage of it... where were the 'Good Guys' to dispel the 'Fake News' and rise of the neo Nazis and 'Othering' of people who are different.

The same place that the SNP leadership was on the weekend following the #IndyRef result: Missing. This saw the good natured and good humoured #VoteYes banter being turned into Tommy Sheridan's angry 'Hope Over Fear' #Cybernat boycotters.

The Wild West of the Internet
Politicans like to throw about comments like 'The Wild West of the Internet' and

"Tech Companies need to do more about online abuse"

Especially when it's tragic cases like suicide because of bullying... I'll take the contrarian view (Something that I will go into more depth in a separate post thanks to Dexter's book), that schools need to do more to ensure that people have a sense of belonging in the schools that they run and do more to prevent the pain from feeling ostracised.

The suicide rate of young people in the UK is shocking... especially when we consider how tough it is elsewhere compared to whatever issues we are facing.

I wrote a post where I wished that politicans ate their own dog food, they are unlikely to do that.

I have been told that I am articulate and well connected and that makes me worth listening to... even by the 'Good and the Great,' and that among some of the issues that I have is that the ideas are 12 months+ ahead of their time.

The Scottish Government have seen their cult celebrity status go from an all time high on social media and at the polls to having a Cybernat problem and big losses during #GE2017... Because of the books I read I accurately predicted it all at the time.

I know that the Pirates of Seventeeth Century helped influence a number of areas including the Cooperative movement and that Anne Bonny might be related to Lady Liberty.

I know that I might be pretty close to 'Life at the Bottom' and that I don't have a voice.

...But I sure as heck know what's important and have ideas on how to make them happen! I've read the's just a shame that myself and a few of the other true innovators I know who live in Scotland don't get the support that the need... Never mind that, they don't even get the support they are SUPPOSED to?!

#LetsBePirates #BeMorePirate

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Please Help!

As I highlight in my #CEduAD Post in September 'Startups are messy... EdTech is tough... and social media is an interesting place at the moment.

Biz Stone's book was a real inspiration to me and came at a time when I REALLY needed it! Professionally things were going well for Biz when he was hired by Google but, personally, he'd taken a few risks to get noticed by Ev Williams and Google who had just acquired Blogger, and was in debt.

He bet on his 'future self' who was going to find a way to pay for everything. When he worked at Google, he lived in a bare flat as he and his partner could not afford furniture... His colleagues rallied round.

Like all my other books it's in storage and, unfortunately, are at risk.

I have written this post in the hope of securing the amount needed to get our possessions out of storage in the next few weeks. Please feel free to contribute to this Go FundMe Page... any and all assistance gratefully received during this challenging time  

If high profile people like Alex Salmond can raise £100,000 in 24 hours and/or a Potato Salad Kickstarter can get $55,000... I hope that I might have built up enough goodwill with people in my PLN to be able to raise £700 needed within the next couple of weeks.

Over the last few years I have tried to see ‘where the puck is going to land’ in relation to EdTech sales.

When I mentioned in 2015 that cold calling was dead, MSPs told me that this was not the case as people loved the Scottish Accent. The MSP for Dumfermline highlighting that there were lots of opportunities with Sky at his constituency.

Fast forward to 2017 at a Scottish Community Manager meetup where people from Sky are presenting and if you were to ask

"Are you playing about with chatbots?" Don't be surprised to find that the answer is

"Yes, we have 8 chat bots running at the moment"

Fast forward again and Adapt or Die: How to Cope when Bots Take your Job highlights how 100,000 AT&T jobs could all go at once.

In Scotland there are some 4% of the Scottish workforce involved with contact centres, are many of those people and their families about to experience what we've gone through? I sure hope not! I would not wish our experience on anyone!!

In 2012 I saw that cold calling was on the way out and looked at what innovative companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and Pokemon Go did to get traction in education.

They didn’t appear to be making the same sales calls as other education based companies… but did seem to put a lot of time and effort into establishing relationships with educators and putting ‘social proof’ to good use.

In 2014 I realised that the UK FE sector was not the best place to explore ideas that I’d been working on as I’d managed to get more done in 4 weeks with US educators when supporting the #SaveEdShelf campaign than I did in 12 months in FE.

(This was in spite of working with 50% of FE colleges and 100% repeat business over a 3 year period with some pre-austerity Every Child Matters and Healthy Colleges projects).

I’ve worked in a paid and unpaid capacity on projects that I have felt had value (and the right core values) since 2014.

A common topic of conversation is that the ideas that I get (usually as a result of ‘social listening’ and curating various data sets) from friends and people in my PLN is that the ideas are ahead of their time.
I’ve found the statement

“Being too early is as bad as being wrong”

To be very true! Except I’d have said that being too early is actually worse than being wrong!

 I’m currently working on a follow up to:

1)      The Developing Relationships & DeliveringValue Report that was written in collaboration with OCR (Which the TechnologyAdoption Cycle Section of the ISTE PLN Pokemon Go in Education report also touches on) 

2)      The Scottish Schools on Twitter Zeemaps that I curated in 2015 and updated in 2017

It is through research like this that has formed the basis for my involvement with the #DigCitSummit movement, anything I've done to get educators involved with the Skypeathon and Connected Educator Appreciation Day (#CEduAD).

I would like nothing more to finish this work and see it reach it’s full potential, which would be 100% in line with what I felt was possible in my very first blog post 

These ideas also happen to be in line with what Chris Van Der Kuyl advocated for in his #SLF15 keynote, as well as the way the Scottish Government say they want to empower educators.

However, like many find in the #EdTech space (Which most definitely does NOT need to be the case… In spite of austerity and all the school budget cuts), I’ve struggled a good deal. 

In the last 12 months have been on the wrong end of a losing battle that I don’t think would be out of place in an Ayn Rand novel.

In August, due in part to non-payment of work that I carried out – as well as a good helping of 'optimism bias' and a dash of naivety – the only home my boys have known was repossessed and we joined many of the other UK families who are experiencing some pretty hard times.

I’m not sure what my three boys will make of watching this struggle as it has unfolded before their eyes but, at the time of writing with my wife organising her mothers funeral and only a couple of weeks to raise the amount needed (£700) to save our possessions that are in storage, a little support would be extremely welcome.

A crowd funder worked for Alex Salmond within a short period of time… and I wondered if the same might be the case with this appeal.

As someone who has successfully helped others with their crowdfund efforts (#SaveEdShelf and #Get2ISTE) and have tried to create a Black-Friday-meets-giving-Tuesday as a way for supplier to thank educators for all the ways they give – whether with the £7 billion in unpaid overtime or the hundreds of dollars they spend on school supplies out of their own pocket – I never for a moment thought I’d be putting a campaign together for £700 to try to help secure belongings (Along with a whole bunch of other changes we've experienced).

As you can see from my HustleWhile You Wait post, I estimate that I’ve delivered value of £90,000 over the last few years to various organizations/movements.

I know that no one asked me to pitch in and assist with these and/or no mention of payment was made with many of these projects... I worked on them in an attempt to reskill from sales (Which educators highlighted in Twitter chats like #EdTechChat, #EdTechBridge and #UKFEChat were annoying) to community management, and because I felt my involvement with these projects would play a role in helping various people, groups and organizations to connect with purpose.

Obviously, I would welcome anyone to contribute to the GoFund Me campaign, but would be particularly interested to hear from anyone who has benefited from any of these projects in the past:

I would also be interested to hear from any EdTech suppliers who are looking to engage with UK Educators as I have some data that may be of interest to them. 

Ask me about this map, the data that each entry will include and how I feel this could help with lead generation as well as helping your product/service get traction using 'social proof' in the way that I have explored in the reports and projects mentioned above.