About Me

By

Does the word technologist mean anything these days?

It's probably the best way to describe what I do a lot of. If 'working to enable people to learn, share and expand their skills, knowledge and understanding, mainly through the use of technology' is a thing, then that's what I do.

How I got to this point

Over the last few years I've discovered that I'm someone who must practice what they preach.

I've always worked in the charity sector. Firstly, because it was a job. Later, because I wasn't spending my time lining someone else's pockets, and hopefully helping society in some way.

My decision to live by my principles particularly affects my behaviour as a consumer. For example, it's no good deciding I don't like how Amazon are exploiting their employees or avoiding taxes, if I still buy from them. So, I boycott them.

Protesting against DRM and still buying locked-down products is an asshole move. So, I don't.

Tweeting about HSBC's illegal practices while still holding an account with them is just hypocritical. So, I closed my account.

Of course, I'm in a privileged position of being reasonably well off, white, male and living in the UK. It's easier for me to make these decisions when I don't have to worry about simply surviving day-to-day. That's where education, consumer rights and technology come in.

Access to Technology

We are living through a period of transition, where people are being forced to use the web to access essential services and those who cannot, or choose not to, are left behind.

The UK Government's Digital by Default project risks creating a two-tier society. People with access to technology and the education and means to use it have a clear advantage over those who do not. Many may struggle with access or with usage due to financial issues, disability or other social, physical and mental inhibitors.

Growing up, I owned a computer that allowed me to programme as well as play games, now the computer games market is dominated by consoles that require the press of a button to start a game. The interface between human and computer has been mediated by companies, technologies and practices that no longer allow experimentation, trial and error or simple play.

While computers have become more powerful, they have also become more limited in their uses. They are now predominantly media players for the companies that sell them. A sophisticated evolution of the printer & cartridge model monetised so successfully by printer manufacturers; the printer being the loss leader for the consumable market that derives the true profit.

The range of devices, knowledge & skills and the ability to tinker are all reduced in a capitalist dream of device-consumer tie-in where the owner doesn't own a thing.

Online Education

I first worked in e-learning in 1999. Our audience didn't have regular and consistent access to the web, so our media of choice was the CD-ROM. HTML content with VR examples and situations to enhance the learning and context. Over a decade later, with almost ubiquitous internet access for my intended audience, I'm still delivering content via HTML; an open and universal language that can be accessed on almost every web-capable device.

I could have chosen to create native apps. But apps need to be tweaked for each and every device, they eventually become inaccessible as devices to host them become obsolete. The skills to create them are expensive and access to them can be limited by gatekeepers and middle-men: the app stores.

Delivering learning content should always be based on the lowest common denominator of platform availability. The web browser is an universal platform that can deliver that availability. Content based on an open, common and free markup always wins over plug-ins, closed and proprietary formats that limit creation and consumption.

My passion, it would seem, is accessibility. Accessibility in the universal, holistic sense. Easy ways to create content and access to it for all.

Projects

DRM-free Bookshops

As an avid reader and a supporter of consumer rights, I maintain a regularly-updated list of DRM-free e-book and comic shops that sell DRM-free titles.

DRM-free Bookshops

Libreture

Finding DRM-free bookshops is one thing, discovering which shops sell which titles is something else entirely. Libreture lists books I have read, am currently reading and plan to read. It shows where I've found each book for sale in a DRM-free format.

Libreture