January 6, 2022

January 2022 - Map of Inquiry

Open questions and areas of interest

I’ve quietly given this site a re-skin. It’s not completely finished yet but it’s getting there.

I made a little “map of inquiry” trying to make sense of the various streams of interest across the projects I’m working on. This map of inquiry is intentionally obtuse, it’s designed to give a vibe rather than a specific roadmap of what I’m working on. As a snapshot for Jan 2022 I thought I’d write down some open avenues of inquiry within the focus areas:

Networked Writing

Blogging! Yes, blogging is still too damn hard. Some active lines of inquiry for me:

  • Collaborative blogging. Blogging still feels very single player. Despite the fact that almost all of my longer writing goes through Google Docs and a heavy process of notes, comments and discussion - when I publish a blog post it’s “flat” in a way that a Google Doc is “alive”. How do we bring this co-creation, collaboration and discussion to the web?
  • Annotations. Related to the above - how do we build in-line comments and discussion to the web? see this thread. I embed hypothesis on my site but it’s clunky and not really designed as a commenting tool… Are my development skills strong enough to formally fork the hypothesis project…? Should I build an MVP of a new solution here? Will it rely on someone like Twitter to build the core infrastructure?
  • How do we get more people blogging? Networked writing relies on… the network! I have a variety of friends and contacts that I wish blogged more. How to encourage / support and nurture more people writing online (outside / in addition to platforms like Twitter)
  • Digital gardens / wikis / community publishing. My own personal digital garden / wiki has languished and I’m thinking about new ideas, new solutions etc here. I’m very excited by ideas in collaboration and publishing in tools like Athens, Logseq and Obsidian. How might we create easier ways for small groups to publish / maintain knowledge in public?
  • Web to books. As I go deeper down the rabbithole of self publishing my book I’m interested in workflows and approaches to convert websites to books. Right now I’m exploring bindery.js. See also: the scale of the web, the authority of print
  • Library.json. After a long hiatus I’m getting interested in this idea again. It’s fun seeing Ton Zylstra explore this idea as well. Note: this idea is actually a trojan horse into structured data and personal web indexes, but don’t tell anyone yet.

Indie Consulting

Indie consulting is where I pay the bills and obviously my book project is exploring this concept in depth. Some active lines of inquiry:

  • Improv skills. Yes! And… How do you cultivate, teach and leverage thinking on your feet, improv, client sparring and more within the context of client work? So much of my work blurs the line between consulting and coaching, this 1:1 work brings me alive but requires this kind of improv reflex…
  • Power & Status. I’m fascinated by how power flows inside organizations. How do you see the shadow org chart? How do you navigate inside an organization as an outsider? How do you actually get things done? See this paper on post-bureaucratic agents of change
  • Chronos & Kairos. Time management, and project momentum. These concepts all sound quite superficial but when you dig deeper there’s a rich vein of philosophy and ideology here. This is accelerating with distributed workforces and increasing independent workers.
  • Sustainable indie consulting. Above and beyond “doing client work” and “paying the bills” how do you create a truly sustainable independent consulting practice? What is the end game for things like health care, retirement, investing, burnout, identity and more.
  • Narrative strategy. I’ve riffed on this a bit but there’s so much more to unpack here. This might even end up being my second book… The idea that narrative is a powerful force within organizations, not just for communications but for project roadmaps, vision, marketing and so much more. The shape and speed of narratives has radically changed - and organizations are still catching up.

Networked Education

With the launch of the SEO MBA I have a playground to apply the ideas around education that I’ve been mulling on for a long time. Lines of inquiry:

  • Learning that sticks. How do you create learning environments, experiences and platforms that make learning actually stick? The SEO MBA is hosted on Podia right now but for future courses how can I experiment with spaced repetition, simulation and cohorts, groups and more interesting ideas…
  • Teaching tacit skills. I’m obsessed with Cedric’s series on tacit knowledge. Since so much of the SEO MBA curriculum will be around “soft” skills and tacit knowledge how can I design experiences that embrace this tension between online courses and in person 1:1 tacit knowledge.

Digital Bricolage

I’ve been obsessed for a long time with the web as a texture - malleable programming, mini hacks and flexible personal scripting. From using importxml in Google Docs to writing little apps on Glitch/Replit.

  • Bookmarklets. I’ve been writing little bookmarklets for a long time, these days they’re mostly used for things like scripting my static site.
  • Quotebacks. A combination of digital bricolage and blogging this was a fun exploration of a new approach to networked writing that involved pushing my skills - what might further experiments look like here?
  • Coding for everyone. I’m obsessed with making coding easier to learn, easier to get started with and easier to share/collaborate on. That’s why I love environments like Replit/Glitch - but I think we can go further.
  • Electric tables. This project is in stealth but why isn’t it easier to compare & collaborate on web pages? Continues the theme of web as texture…

That’s a bit of stream of consciousness for open lines of inquiry that I’m considering and thinking about in Jan 2022. What about you?

More blog posts:

A Lil' Website Refresh

March 20, 2024

This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: