Chris Witham

Weeknotes s01e02

Posted by: Chris Witham - Posted on:

TL;DR: Sorting out my privacy, feeling the cognitive load and the need for better leaders.

[week ending 15/01/2021]

The Good

For those who read my first #weeknote, I finally got the tyre sorted on my Tesla! Thanks for Perry’s Tyres in Cinderford. It’s great to be able to rely on local businesses to see you right. Now I just need the lockdown to end so I can drive somewhere!

I’ve fianlly found some time prioritised sorting out a review of my digital privacy and security. I was prompted by WhatsApp’s reported change in privacy policy, which seemingly doesn’t actually apply to us as we’re still classed as EU, but it was a good prompt none the less.

Steps I’ve taken so far:

  • Switched from Gooogle Chrome to Firefox – as well as concerns about tracking and Google knowing everything, I’ve found Firefox’s Multi-Account Containers extension to be a much better experience as I try to manage multiple Gmail accounts and keep some separation between work and different personal projects. The irony of ditching Chrome and using Gmail is not lost on me.
  • Only use Facebook in a Facebook Container – another great extension from Firefox, Facebook Container, is a neat way to keep Facebook to itself and not let it track you through hidden snippets on completely unrelated websites. I’ve unintalled the Facebook, Messenger and Business Suite apps from my iPhone. I thought messaging and disconnect might be a bit of an issue, but it’s been refreshing having a break from doomscrolling and given I hardly leave the house, I’m never that far away.
  • Facebook privacy review – something I review regularly, but I tightened up a bit more. I’ve removed my phone number from Facebook and switched to a Firefox Relay email address. This means Facebook theoretically no longer have a mechanism to link their data to my other personal accounts. If you’re not familiar with Firefox’s suite of privacy tools, they’re well worth a look, especially, if like me, you haven’t looked at Firefox for a few years.
  • Ditched WhatsAppalmost. I’m committed to getting rid of it. Whether they are actually using my data in nefarious ways or not, the diagram below from @Forbes showing the extent of data they track is a cause for concern. I’ve started using Signal. It’s almost identical to WhatsApp but I’ve found it slightly nicer to use. Clearly switching everyone over to use it is going to be a bit of a headache but Terrence made the good point that they don’t have to switch, just use it to contact me privacy conscious folk. So far, there’s been quite a lot of friends and family following my regular Facebook announcements. Signal also has an iPad app which I think is a bonus over WhatsApp. I’ve also had some positive conversations about how an OpenSource solution like Signal could be a much better solution for discussions across the NHS.
  • Exploring NextDNS – a recommendation from Tom, this looks really powerful and something I’ll report back on. “A new firewall for the modern internet.

I’ve made a note in my #BulletJournal to write a fuller blog post about respecting mine and other people’s privacy in the near future. On the topic of #BuJu, I’ve kept up the habit! I’m finding it really helpful in organising my thoughts and being more intentional about how I use my time. I definitely want to keep this going. I think it has helped me slow down time somewhat and feel more like I’m living life rather than being swept through it. It’s also making writing #weeknotes much easier.

Sunrise over the River Severn
I’m keeping up with morning walks. Some a bit shorter due to weather, but over 23 miles walked this week.

The Bad

This tweet from Paul Bowsher struck me this week. I hadn’t really ackowledged the massive increase in cognitive load we’re all experiencing in our day to day lives. As new rules were introduced, last month last week whenever, trying to figure out whether or not I could still exercise “when on your own, with 1 person from another household” was as exhausting as my 8.6 mile walk last weekend!

I did reflect on and have a few conversations about how different lockdown would have been even 20 years ago. No highspeed internet, no video chat apps, no online learning, no Netflix! The team at GovUK and across NHSUK are doing a stirling job with the constant updates, amendments and revisions of their content. Thank you if you are working crazy mad in a public service content team.

This did lead me to consider how there is still huge disparity in the digital divide. Covid seems to be given a huge opportunity to spread as more children are now having to go into school as they don’t have the necesary kit at home to access learning. I used to volunteer with Operation Christmas Child and help ship shoeboxes to disadvantaged children in third world countries. We’d include paper and pencils because without them, children could not go to school and access learning. Now, I live in a country where children don’t have the equipment they need to access learning. Something we need to think about as we talk about “progress”, “improvement” and the future. This will be as important in healthcare as it is education.

I am sure, and commited to, digital transformation improving health and care. But we must keep our eyes open, understand our users and have diverse voices in our teams to ensure people aren’t left behind. But maybe before we solve all those NHS IT issues, we should agree as a country that all children deserve to eat?

The Ugly

Without wanting to make this a really political blog, how could this week pass without mentioning the events that shook the US Capitol and the aftermath that has played out? They co-incided with me reading about Nelson Mandela leading a process of national reconcilation. It seems whereever we look, the world is being polarised. I’ve enjoyed the RSA Polarised Podcast for a long time now and it is helpful to see how divides have developed. But whether it is America, Brexit or disagreements about how we deliver healthcare in a post Covid world, what is clear, is that we are going to need some pretty special leaders to get us through it.

Notable conversations

I’ve had several notable conversations this week. However, due to some of the projects I’m working on I won’t mention them here. One in particular though I should be able to say more about next week!

Things I’m reading and watching

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