I’m not sure your new “learning path” that you rolled out on November 1 is working quite the way you wanted it to. At least for me.
You see.. yesterday I did not do a single French lesson!
Why not? Simple… because now that you have forced users along a single path, I know that when I do the one lesson I have available for me to do, I will then be rewarded with a “15-minute double XP boost” (I will receive double the “experience points” (XP) for each lesson.) And during the day yesterday, I didn’t have a block of time where I knew I could have another 15 minutes to do more lessons. I had random moments of 5 or 10 minutes, but not a larger block of time. And sure, I could have just done a lesson and NOT used the 15-minute double-XP period, but at this point I’m DEEP into the gamification, and so I want to use those time periods to get more points!
The result was.. I didn’t do any French lessons.
Finally, about 9:00pm I realized I hadn’t done any Duolingo, and so I went in to do a practice session to at least continue my streak. But it wasn’t one of the regular lessons.
Somehow, I don’t think this is what you want people to do.
To back up a bit and provide some context, I started using Duolingo a bit over 9 years ago in July 2013. I started paying for Duolingo Plus (now “Super”) 3 or 4 years ago. I’m currently on a 415-day streak, and I’ve bought into the gamification to the point that I’m in the “Diamond League” and work each week to get enough XP to stay in that league.
So I’m all in.
But your November 1 change is seriously affecting the way I’ve used the app. It used to be I would work in several different skills at once. And if I was challenged for time, I could just so lessons in multiple different skills, potentially bringing several skills to be one lesson away from being complete (which would then get the reward of the double XP boost). Then, when I had a block of time, I could start completing those skills to get the double XP boost.
Now, that approach isn’t an option. I have to keep moving along a path. I can’t work in multiple skills at once. (I can switch to another language and do lessons there, but then that is diluting the time I want to spend learning one language.) I understand your view that this is a better way of learning, and maybe I’m just that grumpy guy who is resistant to change, but it is a VERY different way of working than how I’ve been doing it for the past 9 years.
I do wish there was the option to work on different skills and not be so locked into the same path. Maybe I’m missing something with the new redesign, but so far I haven’t figured this out.
A previously enthusiastic Duolingo user who is less excited now
In a world drowning in email, and increasingly with email newsletters, one of the messages I actually look forward to receiving each day is:
It’s an email newsletter from a journalist named Barry Malone that comes out almost every day. His goal is to highlight three “non-Western news stories you should know”.
What I enjoy is that he very simply and succinctly provides a summary and then a link to read more. It’s three quick paragraphs that I can quickly scan and then decide if I want to read more.
Living in the USA, as I do, most of the news in our US media tends to be about, well… the USA! And maybe Europe on a good day. Every so often we might hear about Canada, too.
But the only times we really hear about countries and regions in other parts of the world are when there are natural disasters or maybe some violent conflict (but sometimes NOT).
To help broaden my view, I get Barry’s email and also the news letter from the Rest of World site, which I highly recommend.
Many thanks to Barry for all the work he’s done - and for consistently delivering such concise, succinct summaries. I would encourage you to subscribe!
In the end
It didn’t matter
That their kids got many other required vaccines for school
It didn’t matter
That their jobs required annual flu shots
It didn’t matter
That unvaxxed people they knew died
It didn’t matter,
Their lords said this vaccine was bad
Nothing else mattered
In the end
Yesterday was my first day back at work after 10 days away on vacation where I did not check work email or Slack.
I approached it with the usual perspective of “Ugh! How many messages will I have to wade through!” Quite often it can take a day or a couple of days to get caught up.. and sometimes you can feel like you need a vacation from taking a vacation! 😀
I have a whole regular “return from vacation" routine down. The first thing I do is copy my entire email inbox to a mail folder so that my inbox only has new messages and I can start responding to those items. Then at some point in the day I start scanning through that mail folder to triage messages in importance, making sure I see messages from our CEO, senior management, my manager, our team, etc., etc. Before I do that, of course, I usually spend time working my way through the zillion Slack channels we have trying to figure out what his most important. Usually the whole process can take hours to days to recover.
So I was prepared that this would be my first Monday of 2022.
To my utter surprise… it was the exact opposite!
You see, our executive team had decided to shut down the entire organization for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, judging that all of us needed a full break to rest and recuperate given the pandemic and so much chaos happening in so many parts of the world.
And… perhaps more importantly… people DID take the time away!
There were a few email messages from staff, and a few from people outside the organization, but so few that I didn’t even bother with my usual “move everything to a folder” routine.
And Slack was blissfully quiet… at least until I got there yesterday! 🤣
There was no recovery time needed! I was just able to get in, answer a few queries and then get started with 2022 work and planning.
In 30+ years in the corporate world, I’ve never had a “return from vacation” quite like this - but I’ve also never had a company or organization truly shut down.
It was wonderful - and I highly recommend it for other companies!
P.S. We’re hiring! (Although only for a couple of positions right now, but other positions do open up over time.)
If one of my aspirations for this year is to consistently create content, one of my personal challenges is to figure out HOW to easily do that.
Ideally, creating content on my own sites should be as easy as sending out a tweet, posting a message to Facebook or Mastodon, or posting an image to Instagram.
And therein lies my challenge.
I’d like to make it so that I could just post from my mobile phone or iPad, so that whenever I have a story idea I want to write I can just post something easily. And, I can also post from my laptop or desktop. I want to be able to post content from anywhere, just as I can with Twitter, Mastodon, and Facebook.
I want to remove any friction from creating content.
However, the main personal sites I write on - this DanYork.com site, Disruptive Telephony, and Disruptive Conversations - are all still hosted on TypePad, because that is where I created them 15 years ago! 😀 And, alas, there is no mobile app or easy way to create content. There IS a mobile web interface, but it doesn’t provide me with a way to create drafts and have a queue.
Now, if the sites were on WordPress, the WordPress mobile apps provide a great experience, but they aren’t… and the switching costs are large. There’s a great amount of work to move thousands of posts and images, including substantial URL rewriting/redirecting. It’s not an easy task.
I’d like to move the sites to WordPress eventually, but not this year.
For the moment, I’m using MarsEdit on my Macs, as I’ve done for many years. For the mobile side, I’m still exploring options. One thought is to use the DayOne journaling app that is now part of my daily workflow. Write the posts there and then copy/paste to the mobile TypePad interface. But I don’t know… I’m looking at other IOS editors, too, and so far not yet finding the toolchain I need.
The search continues! The goal is to remove friction from the creation process.
When my wife and I were raising our daughters, there came a point when we tried to impress upon them that just because something was true didn’t mean you needed to SAY that right then. Yes, Dad might have dark circles under his eyes and look terrible because he was up all night sick, but does he really need to hear “you look terrible” right at this exact moment in time? That may be true, but did he need to hear it?
At some point we started suggesting running comments though a filter of three questions:
If the answer was “Yes” to all three, then go ahead and say it. If not, perhaps hold back.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that * I * don’t always hold to that. Sometimes I’ve fired off a snarky message on social media that, while true, was probably neither necessary or kind. 🙁
Which was what got me thinking about these questions again. Right now there is so much vitriol, anger, and even hatred spewed out by people online. It’s been this way for years now… just look at the comments section for almost any YouTube video. And some of us of a certain age can remember back to some of the meanness in some Usenet newsgroups.
But I think it’s gotten worse lately. In part because of some of the extreme polarization that has happened politically in many countries around the world. There’s a winner-take-all, “you’re with us or you are the enemy” kind of mindset that is increasingly prevalent. And two years of a global pandemic have affected us all. We’re fatigued, exhausted, frustrated, angry … we aren’t at our best.
Just last week a young woman enthusiastically announced on Twitter that she was so excited about a new job at a company working with cryptocurrencies. She was excited and delighted to start, and was eager to work with other people.
And then people piled on her saying truly terrible things because they didn’t like the company she was joining or the overall industry into which she was going. Very mean, personal things.
You could watch in her subsequent tweets as what had started as a joyous celebration announcement turned into something extremely negative.
Why did people need to do that?
Sure, some of what might have been said might have been true about the company. And yes, the cryptocurrency “industry” is currently full of scams and fraud.
But was any of that truly necessary to share with this particular person? And was it kind to her?
We so often seem to forget when we fire off quick messages on social media, in particular, that there are human beings just like us on the other end of the exchange who will be receiving our snark and vitriol.
And right now with all the pandemic fatigue, in particular, critical statements we might brush off at another time can instead be taken quite hard.
If we all could use these questions as a filter BEFORE posting, might we wind up making the world a bit kinder?
Something to think about.
As an aside, I couldn’t remember where my wife and I had first heard those questions. (Perhaps on social media!) So I did some digging and found that, as the image with this post shows, there are many different versions of the questions in different orders. Some attribute the phrase to Buddha, but this article explains how that is false. The author noted that there are similarities in Buddhist texts, and dug deeper to find a Victorian-era (1872) poem by Mary Ann Pietzker, and references even before that to a “Reverend Mr. Stewart”. Other articles point out similarities to a Quaker “three sieve” story, and even to some statements from Socrates. We may never know the exact origins, but regardless the questions are good ones.
Following my pattern of the past 13 years (see list), my first post of 2022 across all my sites is of three words that are my aspirations or “themes” for the year ahead. They are not “resolutions” so much as guiding thoughts or principles.
In so many ways 2021 was a good bit of a “dumpster fire” of a year. We started off with such great hope that the pandemic would be under control … and ended with even higher case counts and more deaths that we’d had the previous year. It often does truly feel like the 672nd day of March 2020. So many of us struggled in so many ways. Yet amidst all that chaos, there were positive signs - and I remain grateful that I reached the end of the year with all my family in decent health (at least physically).
Looking on toward 2022...
Last year brought me great clarity around what I see as my own my personal mission to help people understand our choice of futures - for the Internet, but also for ourselves and for our society.
But 2021 also brought clarity that it is so easy to fall into despair. It does seem like we’re stuck in a perpetual Groundhog Day. The state of the pandemic is so frustrating, particularly for those of us who have done everything we can to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. The breakdown in civility and discourse that we are seeing across the USA and across the world is extremely saddening. The polarization and politicization of even trivial issues is tragic. And our governments and leaders often seem incapable of doing anything helpful - and in fact sometimes seem to be doing the exact opposite of what makes sense - or are so mired in disagreement that nothing happens at all. And… weather events around the world seem to indicate that climate change is happening quicker than many forecast. There are so many tragic events happening to so many people, and even for those not directly affected, there is so much to fear that it can be paralyzing.
It often feels like we are on the edge of living in any of the zillion dystopian, post-apocalyptic movies or TV series that are out there.
It’s easy to despair.
And yet… we can’t. For if we fall into the depths of despair, what is the point of being here? And who will pull us out?
We must hold on to the possibility of hope.
And so what I want to do this year is to do whatever I can to help shine the light on and amplify the good work going on. (And there definitely IS - read "99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2021”)
Not with “rose-colored glasses” or with naive, excessive optimism that just ignores everything else to hope things get better.. but rather with an action of seeking out the hopeful, positive, and optimistic in the midst of the chaos and despair. As I said in a tweet:
The challenge that lies before us is more than choosing hope over fear.
It is choosing hope *amidst* the overwhelming narratives of fear and doom.
It is choosing hope and optimism *despite* those fears.
It is choosing hope as a daily, gritty act of resistance and resilience.
To me, that is the work we all must do.
As I wrote at some length last year, I’ve been struggling through this whole pandemic, but even before that, to consistently create content, be it blog posts, podcast episodes, videos, newsletters or more. I optimistically wrote:
A goal in 2021 is to break through those blockages. I want to get writing again. I want to more consistently create podcast episodes. I’d like to send out more than one email newsletter in an entire year!
And… I only wrote * 11 * posts across all my different blog sites, including my employer’s site, and almost all of those were “administrative” notices such as about upcoming deadlines for various awards or elections. A far cry from the days when would write hundreds of posts each year. 🙁
A sad state of affairs for someone who loves to create content.
Now, I do give myself a bit of a break. I mean… pandemic! It’s been hard on all of us and quite honestly simply surviving 2021 is a beautiful thing!
On the positive side, I was live-streaming on Twitch most of the year, and in doing so continued to learn an amazing amount more about Wikipedia. And, I set up a TikTok account to actually start playing with that platform.
But my aspiration in 2022 is to get back in the game… to be back telling the stories I want to tell… and to be helping promote the hopeful aspects of the futures we need to choose. And… to do so on my OWN sites! Lately I’ve started to write very long threads on Twitter that then get lost in the noise. I really need to be taking those threads and writing them as posts for their longevity - and to have them on sites I control, rather than being lost in some proprietary platform.
Finally, I’ve really got to focus on my health. Like many people, I’ve been a bit too sedentary during the pandemic and eaten a bit too much comfort food. My weight is almost the heaviest I’ve ever been and I seriously need to start making some better food choices. And, being in my mid-50s there’s a number of medical checks I need to have.
I need to focus on this!
Overall I’m quite looking forward to 2022. I’m hopeful that maybe we can finally get the pandemic to a more reasonable state. I look forward to hopefully getting together with friends in our local area, and making new friends, too. I look forward to seeing family more frequently. I look forward to getting back to attending user group meetings and other professional events, and going to concerts and church services and so much more. I miss singing!
Hopefully we can get there… although admittedly 2022 isn’t starting off so great with the rising numbers.
I am also very excited about a new project I’m leading at the Internet Society about understanding Internet access via low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. It’s a hot topic with a lot of marketing hype right now - and we’ll be working to bring some clarity to that whole area. It should be both educational and fun!
Let us hope this all continues to go well!
What about you? What are your aspirations for 2022?
As I have for the past 12 years (see list), my first post of 2021 across all my sites is of three(-ish) words that are my aspirations or “themes” for the year ahead. As my 18yo daughter has reminded me, the beginning of a new calendar year is a completely arbitrary marker 🙂, but it does provide a moment to pause and reflect. Particularly THIS year with the pandemic, we’ve had a great amount of reflection time!
Note: while last year’s post was super short, this one is much longer...
Some of my colleagues at the Internet Society are undoubtedly tired of hearing me say that we must “Do Fewer Things Better”. That’s been my mantra for the past several years, particularly after I took on our website redesign four years ago at the beginning of 2017. As I looked at all the many amazing things we were doing, it was clear to me that we were doing far more than we really could with our small staff. It was hard to capture in our website what we did as an organization, because we were doing so many things! As our new-ish (2018) CEO is fond of saying “We aren’t the Everything Society!” We’ve worked hard over these years to be more focused and have more clarity of purpose.
In 2020, some internal organization changes and internal opportunities caused me to think deeply about exactly what it is I want to be doing - not only within the Internet Society, but also in my larger life. In the immortal words of the poet Mary Oliver:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I spent a great amount of time just… thinking. Reflecting. Writing. Mind-mapping. I re-read a book I’ve enjoyed - “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”, which may actually be from where I started using “Do Fewer Things Better” (although he uses a slight variation “fewer, but better” following on from the German “weniger aber besser”).
Perhaps most importantly, I went back and read my blog post about WHY I joined the Internet Society back in September 2011. A critical section stood out:
We have before us a choice of futures.
One choice leads to a future where innovative companies can emerge, thrive, disrupt and succeed.
Another choice leads to a future where what little "innovation" there is exists only at the will of the gatekeepers to the network after appropriate requirements and/or payments are met. Other choices lead to outcomes somewhere in between those polarities.
How will we choose?
I realized that something in my work that I had been missing from 2017-2019, with so much of my work focused on the organization’s websites, was being a stronger voice about this choice of futures we have. In 2020, I got a chance to speak and write more on this topic as I lead our Open Standards Everywhere project… and it left me wanting to do more.
The pandemic showed us how critical the Internet is. It is the lifeline that is connecting us in all we do. It is how we communicate, collaborate, create, connect…. It is how we work, how we go to school, how we buy things.
And yet… this “lifeline” of ours is not well understood by everyone using it. And in particular by so many of the people creating policies or making decisions around the Internet.
The “Internet” needs more voices explaining HOW it works… and WHY it works the way does… and why it is worth defending. (We see it right now with the “Section 230” debates happening where it’s clear that some people don’t understand what the actual topic is!)
This happens to be something I can do particularly well. And so out of all that thought and reflection emerged the clarity of a personal “mission”, not just for my work, but also for my larger life in general:
To help people understand our choice of futures in our ever-more connected society, and to be a voice for the open Internet.
There’s an amazing clarity that happens when you have that clear of a direction. It provides a lens through which to evaluate choices and opportunities. It provided guidance in those work changes and opportunities I mentioned above.
It also provided a lens through which to evaluate opportunities outside of work. As an example, over the past several months I’ve had people from two separate nonprofits that I greatly admire approach me about joining their Board of Directors. A few years ago I would have probably just said “yes” to both, because they are great organizations and I enjoy serving on boards and helping organizations move forward.
But this clarity of purpose, combined with “do fewer things better”, provided a lens through which I could evaluate the choices. With everything else going on right now, could I really give the time to help the organizations succeed? And secondly, would joining that board help move this personal mission forward?
For one organization, the answer was a clear yes. For the other, it wasn’t.
In 2021, I want to continue to focus on being more clear on my priorities in life, more intentional, more focused. As part of that, too, I want to evaluate the things I am doing and decide whether I truly want to continue (and have the capacity to do so), or if it is time to end some of those activities.
As noted above, if I truly want to be “a voice for the open Internet” and “to help people understand our choice of futures”… well… I kind of have to DO THAT, eh?
When I looked back over these 12 years of writing these “3 words” posts, 10 of the posts have included a word about doing “more” with creating content!
And yet… here I am again.
I have stories I want to tell. I have things I want to say. I have information that I think would help other people.
And yet… I struggle to get those stories and words out.
The “tyranny of the blank page” wins. The articles aren’t written. The podcast episodes aren’t recorded. The videos aren’t made.
As part of that clarity of purposed mentioned above, I’ve been looking at what is it that stops me from getting those stories out. In some cases it has been the fear of getting started. In some cases it has just been… well… life in a pandemic. In other cases, it’s been… getting distracted by everything else on the Internet.
A goal in 2021 is to break through those blockages. I want to get writing again. I want to more consistently create podcast episodes. I’d like to send out more than one email newsletter in an entire year!
Or not! Another goal this year is also to re-evaluate… if I’m not realistically going to send out email newsletters, then just shut it down! If I’m not going to publish posts on one of my sites… archive it! It’s time to do fewer content things better!
Finally, the pandemic of 2020 has certainly shown the strength of - and need for - connections with other people. In some ways, the pandemic has been amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a stronger connection with my wife and daughters than I have this year! My wife and I have been able to carve out some “date time” on morning walks that has brought us even closer together. The sadness of our 18yo not being able to attend her first year of university on campus has provided an amazing opportunity to learn so much more about the incredible young adult she has become. (For her sake, we’re hoping she can move on campus in the fall of 2021!) It was strange for our 11yo to start a new school entirely online and from home, but we’ve also embraced our ability to see more of her than we would in a typical school day.
But for all the strengthening of my immediate connections, I dearly miss seeing my parents and extended family. Video calls are great, but not the same. I miss seeing old friends … and making new friends. The pandemic has definitely highlighted to me that I while I’ve made some connections here in Vermont since we moved here in 2018, I do need to strengthen the ones I have and also expand a bit more.
As a strong extrovert, I enjoy the interactions with many people… and that’s so hard to do in this pandemic world. I’m hoping the combination of vaccines and behavior will help us put this virus behind us.
While those are my main themes, there are certainly two other themes that are constant in my life:
So these are all thoughts as we leave the craziness of 2020 and enter into 2021… we’ll see how the year shapes up - and how well I do!
How about you? What are things you want to accomplish or do differently in 2021?
Today is a special anniversary for me. It was 10 years ago, on May 30, 2010, that I made a decision to get serious about my health. I was about 60+ pounds over what a target weight should be for someone my age. I got winded just walking a few blocks. I needed to change! My wife and I both decided we were going to start getting in shape by just going walking. It was SO helpful to have her as a partner in doing this. We started walking in a beautiful, large cemetery in Keene, New Hampshire.
Over the weeks and months that followed, we started to add short bits of jogging to the walking. Then a little more. And a little more. And more. We had objectives - first we would run from the entrance down to the flagpole. Then we would extend it up to the Chapel. Then back to the flag pole... and so on.
Eventually over many months we were actively running through the cemetery paths!
And through it all I started to record my weight and other stats every Monday morning. I've continued doing that all these years later, leading to the nice chart at the top of this post. It's nice to have a decade of data.
There was a wonderful period of time in there from maybe 2011-2014 when I was actively running in 5K races. I even ran three half-marathons (the same race, three different years). And somewhere in there I would routinely run a loop through the whole cemetery after running an entire 5K!
Beyond adding in exercise, I was also looking at eating healthier, too. In large part cutting back on seconds, eating fewer sweets.
But then things happened. I kept finding excuses for not exercising. I didn't make the best food choices. And as the graph in this post shows, my weight kept climbing and climbing.
Then last fall I decided to get serious again. I tried increasing my exercise while also lowering my consumption of carbs and sugar. It was all working well as the red box on the right points out.
But then... COVID-19. And in the midst of all the chaos and uncertainty, I've chosen comfort foods and sweets, and have slacked off some on the exercise.
But... my goal is now to change that... and bring back more of the exercise, and make better food choices! Hopefully if I am still writing these posts 10 years from now, the story may be a bit different!
Time will tell... but tonight I'm just going to celebrate this anniversary of starting the journey toward being healthier - and all that that journey has brought to me!
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day today, April 22, 2020, my mind jumped back 30 years to "Earth Day 1990" in the state of New Hampshire. I made some choices that year and seized some opportunities that introduced me to the worlds of communications, community organizing, and public relations. I approached 1990 thinking I was going to be finishing up a Masters in Education degree and heading back to Connecticut to teach in a public high school. But life took very different turns and presented new opportunities. The choices I made then set me on the path that led to where I am 30 years later.
I reflected on all this in a podcast episode:
Happy Earth Day to you all!
P.S. See also this post I wrote today: On this 50th Earth Day, We Are Using The Internet To Change The World