Bookmarked The Great American Novels by The Atlantic Culture Desk (

136 books that made America think

In 1868, a little-known writer by the name of John William DeForest proposed a new type of literature, a collective artistic project for a nation just emerging from an existential conflict: a work of fiction that accomplished “the task of painting the American soul.” It would be called the Great American Novel, and no one had written it yet, DeForest admitted. Maybe soon.

The Atlantic Culture Desk

I am always a sucker for a book list, I agree with the comment that the major text missing is Gravity’s Rainbow.

“Edith Zimmerman” in Yesterday the Atlantic published a list of great American no… ()

Replied to I Told You So by Audrey WattersAudrey Watters (Second Breakfast)

As I argued in my book Teaching Machines the entire history of education technology, from the first decades of the twentieth century, has been bound up in this quest to automate education. And much of the early history of artificial intelligence too, ever since folks cleverly rebranded it from “cybernetics,” was deeply intertwined with the building of various chatbots and robot tutors. So if you’re out there today trying to convince people that AI in education is something brand new, you’re either a liar or a fool – or maybe both.

I Told You So
by Audrey Watters

The discussion around my edtech job has been how AI can help cutdown on the repetitive and mundane, of doing things like cleaning up duplicate data produced through previous attempts to automate things. I sometimes wonder if such errors occur because when faced with the investment in capacity and how people work, we just double down on more automation?

Replied to by David ShanskeDavid Shanske (

Writing code at a hotel. Wondering if I’ve gone a bit overboard on the mobile setup. Portable monitor, mini PC, keyboard and trackball.

I remember during lockdown when people were sharing their home setups, such as this from Ian O’Byrne. I am however really intrigued by your mobile setup David. Personally, in the new normal of working in and out of the office, I often find myself living off my laptop, but am interested in adding pieces to my kit that are light and flexible. Am intrigued to see how you pack it all up and how heavy it weighs?
Liked Pluralistic: Your car spies on you and rats you out to insurance companies (12 Mar 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

Cars are enshittified. The dozens of chips that auto makers have shoveled into their car design are only incidentally related to delivering a better product. The primary use for those chips is autoenshittification – access to legal strictures (“IP”) that allows them to block modifications and repairs that would interfere with the unfettered abuse of their own customers

Replied to Your Blog Should Have an About Page by Wouter GroeneveldWouter Groeneveld (

What to put on that /about page? Just your professional history, making it more like a boring résumé, hoping the blog will help you land a job? Your hobbies and coordinates? Your martial status? A complete summary of the technical tools wielded and endless prowess showcased when building your custom blog engine? A list of social media links where people can also find you? How many years you’ve been uploading words onto a server? A selection of the most popular articles you’ve written so far? A lovely photo of you in a suit presenting something at an important conference?

Your Blog Should Have an About Page by Wouter Groeneveld

Wouter, I have long wondered what should go in my ‘about’ page and how to approach the challenge of telling my story. Sometimes I wonder if I have a story to tell? If so, is it that unique or even important? Groeneveld talks about selling your brand, does everyone have a ‘brand’? I have explored different ways of telling before. This has included Amy Burvall’s #3ofMe project, unofficial CV, my connected story, the story of my domain and Story of Connection. I feel I have always grappled with the balance between my identity associated with work, family, professional and personal interests.
I have been many things in my life. An English teacher. An ICT specialist. An EdTech coach. A primary teacher. An administrator. A student. A functional consultant. A functional specialist. This makes me many things to many people, let alone to myself. I fear that this means that if people come to my blog that they are disappointed as they will always meet with a different identity to the one they expected as it is not a space that can necessarily be everything to everyone. Maybe Adrian Camm’s idea of a ‘user manual‘ is useful?

Bookmarked Job vs Career (

A career contains a multitude of jobs. Some of them are the ones you get paid for, but many of them aren’t. And that’s often where the confusion comes into play. The paid job begins to bleed into other areas, and you associate the paid job with all the other jobs. They get lumped together as a career, but they are distinct and need to be kept separate. It’s our mind that blends them together, so every so often, we need to pull focus, reevaluate and paint in the edges to make it clear what our jobs really are. by Tim Klapdor

Tim Klapdor explores the difference between a job and a career. This all reminds me of the adage ‘you are more than your job’ and Mary Catherine Bateson’s idea of ‘composing a life’. I feel that the challenge is to balance between the demand of the job and a wider passion. In my occupation, I often find myself having to justify my professional development desires against the demands of the project I am a part of, however it is often my side interests where my growth often occurs. I wonder then who is responsible for my ‘career’ if it exists outside of any clear notion of ‘return on investment’.

Listened Respect All Lifeforms, 2020 album by Australian band Custard by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Respect All Lifeforms is the eighth studio album by Australian alternative rock band Custard “Custard (band)”), released on 22 May 2020 by ABC Music.[1]

The album was preceded by the release of the single “Funky Again”, which was accompanied by a video directed by longtime collaborator Andrew Lancaster.[2]

Source: Respect All Lifeforms by Wikipedia

Gone are the days when the band would painstakingly labour over the creation of the album, the basis for Respect All Lifeforms, was recorded one weekend at Poons Head Studio in Fremantle while the band were in Perth to play a festival. As Dave McCormick explained:

“This album was pretty easy, we were about to fly over to Perth to play a festival, and we went over the day before because we hate the three hour time difference in Perth. You end up feeling like it’s 4am in the morning by the time you play.

“We had a day to kill, and Glenn Thompson booked us a studio in Fremantle, and we went in and we recorded eight songs on the day, and six of them we used on the album, so it was a productive morning.”

“We were less prepared than we normally are,” he explains. “Traditionally, Matthew Strong, guitar and I would get together and write, we’d show each other some chord ideas, send it around and everyone would have a listen and have a think about it.

“This session, no one had heard anything that any of us were working on, so it was all ‘first listen’, ‘what can we play?’ I didn’t even know what my songs were, really. I was thinking, ‘Maybe there’s a chorus here, a guitar solo’, but it was all very much a work in progress.

“I think this album is very immediate, and that’s the way I like working now. In the ’90s, we’d spend weeks and weeks on tracking the album, and mixing the album, but I don’t want to do that anymore. I just want to keep it all in a sense of falling forward where no one quite knows what’s happening, and I like that energy.”

Source: Custard: Still Full of Surprises by Tyler Jenke

While Glenn Thompson spoke about the spontaneity associated with learning and recording at the same time.

“We hadn’t played the songs before recording, so it was learning and recording at the same time – which is great. That spontaneity helps to make something interesting.
“We’ve played together for so long that there’s just a feeling, you know the direction in which things are going to go, and you all go in a similar direction at a similar time.”

Source: Custard’s ‘Respect All Lifeforms’ Is One Of The Best Albums Of 2020… Trust by Bronwyn Thompson

Discussing the album with Lindsay McDougall, McCormick explained that what makes a “Custard” song is when a song is played and the band hear it and add their additions in return, the organic interchange.

Respect All Lifeforms feels like a return to the ebbs and flows of We Have the Technology and Loverama. Unlike the last two albums, which opened with slower more somber tracks and a touch of country, this albums kicks off with a bang with ‘Couples Fight’, making something of a statement. The album then bounces around from there. Gone is the lap steel and harmonica. It does not wear the criticism of ‘Adult Contemporary’ made against their last two albums so well.

One interesting aspect about this album is that McCormick, Thompson and Paul Medew each take writing responsibilities. This itself brings a point of difference. With Thompson providing his usual infectious whimsical observations of the world with ‘A Cat Called No’ and ‘Wishing’, Medew providing some pace with ‘Wishing’ and ‘Like People’, while McCormick fills out the rest with his usual mix. They also provide a cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s ‘Taking the Skinheads Bowling’.

It was interesting reading David Lowery’s thoughts on writing ‘Taking the Skinheads Bowling’, in which he described it as “weird non-sensical”.

So it should not surprise you that I never thought  that Take the Skinheads Bowling would become a Hit.  If someone had traveled from the future and told me we would have a hit on our first album I would not have picked this song as being the hit.  Not in a million years.  I would have more likely picked Where the Hell is Bill.

Why?  we regarded Take The Skinheads Bowling as just a weird non-sensical song.  The lyrics were purposely structured so that it would be devoid of meaning.  Each subsequent line would undermine any sort of meaning established by the last line.  It was the early 80’s and all our peers were writing songs that were full of meaning.  It was our way of rebelling.  BTW this is the most important fact about this song.  We wanted the words to lack any coherent meaning.  There is no story or deeper insight that I can give you about this song.

Source: #74 Hits are Black Swans-Take the Skinheads Bowling by David Lowery

This is probably a good way of describing a lot of Custard’s music.

Noel Mengel argues that what makes a Custard album is the ebb and flow throughout.

But what is so enjoyable about Custard’s music is not that it can be defined in any neat way but that it can’t. Pop-rock with guitars it might be, but there is a lot going on that rewards play after play. And it always sounds just like them.

Source: Respect All Lifeforms. Custard by Noel Mengel

He also summarises the album as follows:

A lovers’ tiff, ills ancient and modern, great records past and present, the lengthening shadows of loves, record shops, hangovers: it’s all fuel for Custard.

Source: Respect All Lifeforms. Custard by Noel Mengel

On a side note, the picture on the cover was taken during the recording session in Fremantle of a man called ‘Cowboy John’:

“At this Poons Head Studio in Fremantle, there was this character called Cowboy John who was hanging around the studio,” he recalls. “He looked about, maybe [in his] 60s, and he was known to the studio owner.

“He came into the studio, hung out with us a little bit, and then he bummed some of Matthew’s cigarettes, and then he was gone. And as he left, he said, ‘Respect all lifeforms’, and that was it; he just walked out of the studio. And we just looked at each other and said, ‘That’s the album name, Respect All Lifeforms‘.

“And the studio owner, Rob [Grant], said ‘I’ve got a photo here of Cowboy John playing this monophonic Roland synth thing, and he’s wearing a crown.’ And we said, ‘We need that photo, that has to be the cover of the album.’

“So it was a productive morning. We had the album cover done, we had the title of the album done, and we had six songs recorded.”

Source: Custard: Still Full of Surprises by Tyler Jenke


Couples Fight

The last two albums started off with slower more subdued tracks. Couples Fight feels like something of a statement. It has a Ballroom Blitz feel, before breaking out the synthesiser. I am left wondering about categorising Custard’s songs, I think that this fits into the category of ‘observations’, especially with the line “playing Blood on the Tracks … via bluetooth.” It tells a story, but not a specific story.

Funky Again

I asked AI to create me a song that combines The Cure’s Let’s Go To Bed, Britany Spears’ Toxic and Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice. It responded that the song already exists in the form of Funky Again. After listening to Dave McCormick on Take 5 podcast, I can hear the influence of Britany Spears’ Toxic in this track with some of the guitar lines, while it would be fascinating to hear Funky Again mashed up with Weapon of Choice.

Harrlequin Records

Category: biographical, maybe auto? Love the line, “I’m so dumb, people think that I am smart.” It has the big feel that was a part of the previous album.

A Cat Called No

Glenn Thompson has the ability to write the quirkiest songs with the most infectious harmonies.


Paul Medew starts this song hard and drives it all the way through. It has an Elvis Costello feel.

Take the Skinheads Bowling

This is a cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s track. Here is David Lowery discussing the song:

So it should not surprise you that I never thought  that Take the Skinheads Bowling would become a Hit.  If someone had traveled from the future and told me we would have a hit on our first album I would not have picked this song as being the hit.  Not in a million years.  I would have more likely picked Where the Hell is Bill.

Why?  we regarded Take The Skinheads Bowling as just a weird non-sensical song.  The lyrics were purposely structured so that it would be devoid of meaning.  Each subsequent line would undermine any sort of meaning established by the last line.  It was the early 80’s and all our peers were writing songs that were full of meaning.  It was our way of rebelling.  BTW this is the most important fact about this song.  We wanted the words to lack any coherent meaning.  There is no story or deeper insight that I can give you about this song.

Source: #74 Hits are Black Swans-Take the Skinheads Bowling by David Lowery

It was interesting to go back and listen to the original track and another cover by the Manic Street Preachers. I think that Custard capture the quirkiness of the track and really make it there own. I saw that Adalita, Phil Jamieson, Tex Perkins and Tim Rogers are touring The Rolling Stones Sticky FIngers, it made me wonder if McCormick could actually front his own covers band, similar to Billie Joe Armstrong’s The Coverups.

The Min Min Lights

This is a story song that focuses on ‘Veronica’, but it does not make completely clear why she is crying. This song is story without all the information, instead it is about the emotion.

Talkative Town

Another song by Glenn Thompson. It contains Thompson’s penchant for passing comments on the world around (‘We live up in the trees, Or where they used to be’ and ‘I buy all my stuff with my digital thumbprint’) and society in general (‘I think there’s a more equitable system, I don’t think it’s called capitalism’) all on top of a bed of infectious pop.

Like People

Another song by Paul Medew about a relationship that we are brought in on. Moments are pieced together to place us in the situation of wanting things to change. As with Wishing, the song flies through.

Watcha Waiting For

We are ‘here’, but never quite sure where ‘here’ actually is. The ambiguous nature and slow feel of this song make it feel like it could have been the closing track for the album.

Come Tuesday

Category: (Auto)Biography
Come Tuesday is a reflective track from McCormick about life on the road. It touches upon how ‘come Tuesday’ everything can change. It is a slower more somber track and really closes off the album.

Replied to Message in a bottle by David TrussDavid Truss (

Write a note, put it in a bottle, cork it, and throw it into the ocean. The tides move the bottle from one shore to another and the message is picked up randomly by a stranger who isn’t expecting the message. An audience of one. Today, the internet lets us toss our message into a […]

Today, the internet lets us toss our message into a cyber ocean. As I write this, I have an idea of some of the people who will see it, but I also know that it has the potential to be picked up by some random person somewhere far away, opened up and read at random, without me ever knowing where my post, my message in a bottle, landed.

David Truss

Hi David, I was wading through my ocean of RSS and this post popped up. Personally, when I publish on the web, I am always left with the thought that it could be read, not that it will be read. This possibility forces me to be clear and concise with what I write. This is something that Clive Thompson once wrote about regarding the power of blogging:

Having an audience can clarify thinking. It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing.

Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter by Clive Thompson

Reflecting on research into education, he argues that their is power in explaining your thoughts.

Children who didn’t explain their thinking performed worst. The ones who recorded their explanations did better.

Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter by Clive Thompson

Interestingly, in reflecting upon Pluralistic and his memex method, Cory Doctorow discusses the importance of doing it first and foremost for yourself.

First and foremost, I do it for me. The memex I’ve created by thinking about and then describing every interesting thing I’ve encountered is hugely important for how I understand the world. It’s the raw material of every novel, article, story and speech I write.

20 years a blogger by Cory Doctorow

Thinking of blogging like this makes me wonder about the ‘message in a bottle’ metaphor. Maybe there is an alternative history to ‘messages in a bottle’, but all the tales that I read about them was that they related to people trying to escape their little island. I am not sure that is why I write? I am happy if someone passing finds my message and wishes to trade ideas, something you commented on ten years ago:

“As connected learners we are not just curating ideas and resources, we are creating relationships, some are just ‘weak ties’ but others are very meaning, rich and strong. I don’t just read Dean, I hear his voice, I connect to previous things he has said, and I pause just a little longer if he says something I disagree with.” David Truss in response to Learning in a Connected World

It Takes a Village … by Aaron Davis

But I am not sure I wanted to be rescued? I wonder if Doctorow’s dandelion metaphor is more apt?

Dandelions produce two thousand seeds every spring, and when a good, stiff breeze comes around, those seeds are blown into the air, going every which way. The dandelion’s strategy is to maximize the number of blind chances it has for continuing its genetic line—not to carefully plot every germination. It works: every summer, every crack in every sidewalk has a dandelion growing out of it.

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow

Bookmarked Losing the imitation game by Jennifer MooreJennifer Moore (Jennifer++)

AI cannot develop software for you, but that’s not going to stop people from trying to make it happen anyway. And that is going to turn all of the easy software development problems into hard problems.

Losing the Imitation Game/ by Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore goes beyond the hype around so-called artificial intelligence to explain why LLMs are not the answer when it comes to developing software. The particular problem is that although they maybe able to provide snippets of code, they do not necessarily know, or understand, or comprehend anything about that data. They cannot do the heavy lifting associated with mental models. This can only be done by doing.

Non-trivial software changes over time. The requirements evolve, flaws need to be corrected, the world itself changes and violates assumptions we made in the past, or it just takes longer than one working session to finish. And all the while, that software is running in the real world. All of the design choices taken and not taken throughout development; all of the tradeoffs; all of the assumptions; all of the expected and unexpected situations the software encounters form a hugely complex system that includes both the software itself and the people building it. And that system is continuously changing.

The fundamental task of software development is not writing out the syntax that will execute a program. The task is to build a mental model of that complex system, make sense of it, and manage it over time.

To circle back to AI like ChatGPT, recall what it actually does and doesn’t do. It doesn’t know things. It doesn’t learn, or understand, or reason about things. What it does is probabilistically generate text in response to a prompt.

Losing the Imitation Game by Jennifer Moore

For me, this takes me back to a post from Richard Olsen, in which he explains why coding is so important in schools.

Moving beyond the usual explanations around workplace skills and the ability to build apps, Olsen suggests that coding is a core skill in the modern learning environment. Influenced by the seminal work of Seymour Papert, he asserts that it is coding and the digital workspace that allows students to learn real maths skills, to test hypothesis, to play with different situations. Going further, Olsen suggests that such a learning environment allows the following:

  1. Feedback-Rich Learning
  2. Reuse-Rich Learning
  3. Opinionated Learning
  4. Continuously Evolving Learning

A Response to @Richardolsen on Coding by Aaron Davis

Olsen’s post is one of those gifts of learning that comes up for me again and again, and is a reminder of the opportunities associated with connected learning.

This all has me wondering about the debate around prompt engineering and how that may miss the point.

“Doug Belshaw” in Language is probably less than you think it is | Thought Shrapnel ()

Bookmarked Where are the crescents in AI? | LSE Higher Education (

For me, being critical goes beyond critique and scepticism: it includes subscribing to critical theory and critical pedagogy – developing awareness of social justice issues and cultivating in learners a disposition to redress them. The elements of critical AI literacy in my view are:

  • Understanding how GenAI works
  • Recognising inequalities and biases within GenAI
  • Examining ethical issues in GenAI
  • Crafting effective prompts
  • Assessing appropriate uses of GenAI

Where are the crescents in AI? by Maha Bali

Maha Bali discusses the need for cultivating critical AI literacy. She reflects on ideas and exercises that she has used as a part of her course on digital literacies and intercultural learning. After unpacking each of the areas, with elaborations and examples, she ends with a series of questions to consider:

I think we should always question the use of AI in education for several reasons. Can we position AI as a tutor that supports learning, when we know AI hallucinates often? Even when we train AI as an expert system that has expert knowledge, are we offering this human-less education to those less privileged while keeping the human-centric education to more privileged populations? Why are we considering using technology in the first place – what problems does it solve? What are alternative non-tech solutions that are more social and human? What do we lose from the human socioemotional dimensions of teacher-student and student-student interactions when we replace these with AI? Students, teachers, and policymakers need to develop critical AI literacy in order to make reasonable judgments about these issues.

Where are the crescents in AI? by Maha Bali

This discussion of critical, more than just critique, reminds me of Doug Belshaw’s digital literacies:

  • Digital literacies are about process as much as product
  • Lets move beyond good and evil and focus on choice and consequence
  • Literacy starts with you, curate rather than be curated

In Search of an Understanding of Digital Literacies Worth Having by Aaron Davis

As well as my piece on Cambridge Analytica and the need to critically reflect and ask questions.

I think that the most important thing we can do is wonder. This helps go beyond the how-to to the how-do-they-do-that.

Secret, Safe and Informed: A Reflection on Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the Collection of Data by Aaron Davis

Bookmarked Un-watching, Un-tracking: Healing and Bad Data by Audrey WattersAudrey Watters (Second Breakfast)

I wore my watch for the first few days of not running, still using it to record the morning walks with the dog. But as the messages about my activity level started to exacerbate my anxiety – I was already feeling shitty enough, thank you very much – I took the watch off. “The body keeps the score,” [to borrow a phrase](, and there’s no need for me to hand my activity data over to a gadget that’s going to develop its own score, one that may or may not coincide with how I feel, physically and/or mentally.

Source: Un-watching, Un-tracking: Healing and Bad Data by Audrey Watters

Audrey Watters reflects on the limitations to smart devices and tracking apps. Whether it is reminders that lack context or the algorithms behind the feedback, Watters wonders if sometimes we can achieve the same outcome by keeping a paper journal or knowing the distances you are running.

This reminds me of danah boyd’s reflection on the addictive nature of statistics.

Stats have this terrible way of turning you — or, at least, me — into a zombie. I know that they don’t say anything. I know that huge chunks of my Twitter followers are bots, that I could’ve bought my way to a higher Amazon ranking, that my Medium stats say nothing about the quality of my work, and that I should not treat any number out there as a mechanism for self-evaluation of my worth as a human being. And yet, when there are numbers beckoning, I am no better than a moth who sees a fire.

Source: My name is danah and I’m a stats addict by danah boyd

Bookmarked (

Stats have this terrible way of turning you — or, at least, me — into a zombie. I know that they don’t say anything. I know that huge chunks of my Twitter followers are bots, that I could’ve bought my way to a higher Amazon ranking, that my Medium stats say nothing about the quality of my work, and that I should not treat any number out there as a mechanism for self-evaluation of my worth as a human being. And yet, when there are numbers beckoning, I am no better than a moth who sees a fire.

Source: My name is danah and I’m a stats addict by danah boyd

Danah Boyd questions the merit and meaning of measuring endless amounts of stats online. This is not to say that statistics are all bad, but the incessant amount of numbers associated with hits, follows, likes are not helpful.

Bookmarked BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh RaoVenkatesh Rao (

One such pattern I strongly recommend you understand and cultivate in your org if you don’t already is the BDFx, or Benevolent Dictator for x, pattern, where x is a time period between an hour or a year or so. The limits vary by context. In various orgs I’m in, it tends to be days to months.

Source: BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh Rao

It stands for Benevolent Dictator for _x,_ where _x_ is a time period between an hour (a meeting) to about a year. Happily it could also stand for _eXecution_, since usually it is execution needs that create leadership needs.

Source: Four Modes of BDFxing by Venkatesh Rao

Venkatesh Rao unpacks the idea of BDFx style leadership. For Rao, most leaders are engaged in ‘leadering’, rather than actual leadership.

You see, actual leadership is a thankless job even when you’re motivated by, and being rewarded with, great wealth (stock etc), power, and fame (being US President, a Hollywood producer, etc). As I’ve argued before (in a 2015 post) most leaders motivated by those things don’t actually lead. Instead they indulge in a theatrical grifter activity I call leadering, which delivers the rewards without requiring them to deal with the responsibilities.

Source: BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh Rao

Continuing with the critique of traditional leadership, Rao explains that the most problematic style is Charismatic leadership.

It’s not that charismatic leadership used to work and has now stopped working. It’s basically never worked, but it was possible to hide the fact near-perfectly in a broadcast world, got harder in a social media age, and is now basically impossible in an AI/decentralization age. The myth-making narrative apparatus that charismatic leadership relied on now produces threadbare plots with cartoon characters only cartoon people can believe in, at best. At worst it falls apart completely, often revealing pits of depravity beneath the myths.

Source: BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh Rao

He explains how as a model, BDFxing is time-boxed distributed leadership, which helps foster leaders-in-waiting.

BDFxing is a leadership model that is self-consciously time-boxed to be within the limits of human endurance, morality, decency, and fallibility. I previously argued that CEOs don’t steer, but provide high-momentum, orientation-locked dead reckoning in a stable direction. That when a leader turns out to be wrong, the right move is usually not for them to steer and course correct, but to step back and yield to someone else whose sense of direction seems better for the changed circumstances. Which means the culture has to foster lots of leaders-in-waiting at all levels, ready to step up. BDFxing turns this idea into a high-frequency design pattern.

Source: BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh Rao

In a follow post, Rao unpacks four flavours of BDFxing:

  • Launch Boss – high-stakes, high-energy
  • Lightning Conductor – high-stakes, low-energy
  • Landscaper – low-stakes, low-energy
  • Ringleader – low-stakes, high-energy

He suggestions that everybody should try the different modes and find what is right for them.

Everybody should try their hand at all four kinds of BDFxing, and figure out what they’re best at. And then do it for the things they are involved in to the degree it is fun. If nobody has enough fun doing the BDFxing to supply the leadership of the activity, the activity should probably just be abandoned. A leadership deficit that’s fixed by coercive force and misery poisons the activity and the outcome.

Source: Four Modes of BDFxing by Venkatesh Rao

Liked (

It was Swift who threw out the “we” for the “I.” She didn’t do it with her words, mostly. Swift is ever-gracious in her awards acceptance speeches, always enthusiastically crediting her collaborators and acknowledging her competition. But as she stands in the eye of a hurricane of popular fetishization and media hype, Swift can’t help but block out everything and everyone around her. She knows it, or at least the attack of the 50-foot Tay in the “Anti-Hero” video suggests she does. But that doesn’t stop it from being true. She wants to continue to present herself as an ordinary musician who loves the studio more than the spotlight, but crowd hunger – for a distraction from the world’s horrors, a hero who doesn’t wield weapons, a boost to the economy, a symbolic antidote to the shrinking of women’s rights – has turned her into the strangest kind of star: a mutli-dimensional monolith. In popular culture right now, Taylor Swift stands for everything, yet she also stands firmly for the center, unmoving, unable to share the light.

Source: February 18th 2024 by Ann Powers

Listened Mary Catherine Bateson Living as an Improvisational Art from

Krista Tippett speaks with Mary Catherine Bateson about her life, work and beliefs. The two discuss changes in our relationships over time and what ‘home’ means:

Creating an environment in which learning is possible, that is what a home is.

Maria Popova has also written a useful introduction to Mary Catherine Bateson and her book Composing a Life, in which she includes the following quote:

It is time now to explore the creative potential of interrupted and conflicted lives, where energies are not narrowly focused or permanently pointed toward a single ambition. These are not lives without commitment, but rather lives in which commitments are continually refocused and redefined. We must invest time and passion in specific goals and at the same time acknowledge that these are mutable. The circumstances of women’s lives now and in the past provide examples for new ways of thinking about the lives of both men and women. What are the possible transfers of learning when life is a collage of different tasks? How does creativity flourish on distraction? What insights arise from the experience of multiplicity and ambiguity? And at what point does desperate improvisation become significant achievement? These are important questions in a world in which we are all increasingly strangers and sojourners. The knight errant, who finds his challenges along the way, may be a better model for our times than the knight who is questing for the Grail.

Source: Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson

“Doug Belshaw” in TB872: MCB and ‘being what we are willing to learn’ – Open Thinkering ()

RSVPed Interested in Attending The AI Challenge – Design Forward
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Source: The AI Challenge

This self-paced module offers approaches to investigating artificial intelligence in education and includes a collection of resources for learning and teaching.

Bookmarked AI in education is a public problem (code acts in education)

These 21 arguments against AI in education demonstrate how AI cannot be considered inevitable, beneficial or transformative in any straightforward way. You do not even need to take a strongly normative perspective either way to see that AI in education is highly contested and controversial. It is, in other words, a public problem that requires public deliberation and ongoing oversight if any possible benefits are to be realized and its substantial risks addressed. Perhaps these 21 critical points can serve as the basis for some of the ongoing public deliberation required as a contrast to narratives of AI inevitability and technologically deterministic visions of educational transformation.

Source: AI in education is a public problem by Ben Williamson

Ben Williamson provides 21 arguments against artificial intelligence in education:

  1. Definitional obscurity
  2. Falling for the (critical) hype
  3. Unproven benefits
  4. Contextlessness
  5. Guru authority
  6. Operational authority
  7. Curriculum misinfo
  8. Knowledge gatekeeping
  9. Irresponsible development
  10. Privacy and protection problems
  11. Mental diminishment
  12. Commercialization infrastructuralization
  13. Value generation
  14. Business fragility
  15. Individualisation
  16. Replacing labour
  17. Standardised labour
  18. Automated administrative progressivism
  19. Outsourcing responsibility
  20. Bias and discrimination
  21. Environmental impact

Stephen Downes responds to each of the questions in his own piece.

Replied to Loosening the Shackles: Empowering Growth and Innovation (

After the demanding requirements of finishing my doctoral thesis, the mere thought of delving into another scholarly endeavour feels drainin…

School leaders must be empowered to take the reins and drive meaningful change in the realm of PL. They need the autonomy to design PL experiences that are tailored to the unique needs and context of their school community. This may involve fostering a culture of collaboration, leveraging technology to facilitate ongoing learning, or creating opportunities for job-embedded coaching and mentorship. Furthermore, school leaders require the support and resources necessary to bring their vision for PL to life. This may entail investing in PL opportunities for staff, providing time and space for collaborative enquiry and reflection, or partnering with external organisations to access expertise and resources. The success of any educational initiative hinges on the commitment and vision of its leaders. By empowering school leaders and leadership teams with the autonomy, time, and support needed to reimagine school-embedded PL, we can unlock the full potential of our educators.

Source: Loosening the Shackles: Empowering Growth and Innovation by Andrea Stringer

I read this piece a few weeks ago Andrea and it has really stayed with me.

Firstly, I feel I can relate to your point about once having a window into school via social media and blogs. However, my lack of investment in social media and the changes in that space have left me feeling far less connected. Sometimes I feel like a species caught on the wrong side of continental drift.

On your second point about leaders adapting PL to the needs and context of their school, I recently read Joel Selwood’s autobiography and he discussed the way in which he needed to transition how he lead to accommodate the needs of different group of players:

I was finding it difficult managing the transition from being part of a tough and tight premiership-winning group to needing to teach an emerging group often struggling to find what was right for them. Connecting with people inside and outside the club required more of my energy, and the standards I set for myself were not always met by others.

Although my relationships with teammates were strong enough to avoid animosity, I began to sense I needed to adapt, or my message would stop resonating. What underpinned success for me was not necessarily the same as what drove others, and I was beginning to have conversations with people inside the club about how I could be a better leader.
[Brian Cook] wanted me to develop what he labelled ‘influential skills’ on top of my ‘lead by example’ policy. He could see the young players on our list requiring more of everyone’s time.

Source: All In by Joel Selwood

Although this seems logical when you think about it, I had not considered the fact that the conditions that foster success at one point in time may not foster the same success at another point in time. I guess this comes back to your point about identity and change over time. What was intriguing was the team that he had around him to support this change, whether it be trusted teammates, ex-captain Cameron Ling, club CEO Brian Cook and psychologist Anna Box. Throughout the book, I was continually reminded that it success in any field really does take a village, I just wonder if we always provide the resources to build such a village? Instead, it can be easier to provide the answer or automate a solution, rather than invest in autonomy and self-determination.