Joe around the internet…


I’ve written in a couple of other places recently and it’s time to do an update on those.  I had an article in the Huffindon Post: Infographics: For People Who Hate Blind People? and two about AzuleJoe in the Nesta blog: this one, and this one.

There’s also a two part blog I did for the White Water Writers site: “Peril”.

More generally I’m a little unsure how to handle posting to the individual project blogs. Part of me wants to keep them all on and part of me wants to pour all of the content into the subsites – I’m planning on making some substantial changes to the site in the near future anyway, so it might just be a little inconsistent until then!

Friday requiem: You are in the minority on Twitter, and so is everyone you listen to.

Quick note for readers.  I think it’s important that I consider my back catalogue of posts to be part of the site and that they get maintained, looked after and followed up on.  So each Friday I’ll be picking a post I did from that week last year, and see if my opinions have changed, or find out how the story develops.


Today’s is a little different – I had a look at You are in the minority on Twitter, and so is everyone you listen to and decided that I liked it as it was – so I’ve added some cartoons to it.  Enjoy!


You are in the minority on Twitter, and so is everyone you listen to.


Three day week (requiem)

Quick note for readers.  I think it’s important that the site’s back catalogue of posts are considered a ‘living’ part of the site and that they get maintained, looked after and followed up on.  So each Friday a post from a that week a year ago gets picked out to find out how the story, project, or idea has developed.


So this time last year I wrote this post.

After having thought about these things for a little while I’ve decided to try out a ‘three posts a week’ strategy. So I’ll be posting new articles at 10am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The idea is that it will encourage me into more substantial posts (because that’s fewer posts than I would write if given free rein), while at the same time letting regular readers know that there isn’t any point turning up on Tuesday/Thursday looking for anything new (this will take down my visitor numbers obviously, but if that’s not an excellent example of number-blindness then I don’t know what is). It will also encourage me to write less ‘of the moment’ articles. Yes they might be interesting at the time, but having to ask myself ‘will this still be interesting next week?’ can only improve my writing.

It was the point where I stopped posting ‘link with paragraph of commentary” posts, and committed to producing three substantial articles a week.  Astonishingly, I’ve been able to keep to it and I’ve been able to produce many more posts that I’m proud of (there are still some that I’m not, but it’s a much smaller proportion).

Unexpectedly, this has moved the ethos of the site. It’s been much easier to attract quality writers (this and this are particular favourites) and as this is starting to become a bigger and bigger part of the site I’ve resigned it this week – so you’ll notice that my photo, bio, and twitter stream have vanished from the page, and the front page has been redesigned to showcase other writers much more.


(I’ll also be doing the articles for, so every so often one of my three-articles-a-week will appear there instead of here)


This week last year on

These are the posts I was writing this week last year – that’s the 20th September 2013 to about halfway thought the 27th…


Disney Reportedly Altering Special Needs Access At Parks

A bit more press on narrative analysis….


This week last year on

These are the posts I was writing this week last year – that’s the 13th September 2013 to about halfway thought the 20th… (because I want to include one of the posts I wrote on the 20th next week)

Communication Matters 2013: Day 1

Communication Matters 2013: Day 2

Communication Matters 2013: Day 3, Endgame…

Amazon petitions US Commission to exempt kindle from US accessibility laws…

“Carers for disabled passengers should fly for free” – A sign of selective reporting from the BBC?

Guest post: FoI Appeals – The Burden of Proof

Garrett Holeve, MMA and Down’s syndrome “I took that punch as a man”


Old shame – what was I writing about one year ago…

So as we’ve just had a year anniversary on the blog, I thought it would be interesting to look at what I was writing about for the first few days.  This covers the week up until the 13th September 2013.

The first thing I notice is that I am wildly all over the place in terms of content.  I write on a wide range of topics now, but I’m amazed at the amount I got though in my first week.  The second thing I notice is that many of these posts really are just ‘things I would have put on Twitter but I felt they needed a bit more context’.  Overall I’m a lot more happy with the posts than I’d expect, even to the point that there are a couple that I might like to rewrite at some point, but I also think I’ve come a long way.

No one should have a gun, except maybe blind people

I wrote a counterpoint to something that appeared on samedifference’s blog.  I wrote it really quite verbosely and I think I’d be considerably more concise now.  I think.  Actually it’s one of the closest things to a proper article that I’ve had appear on the early blog.

U.S. Religious Zealots Sneak Into Scottish Schools Without Parents’ Knowledge to ‘Help’ With Lesson Plans

This story amazed me – I’m broadly anti-creationist but I’m amused by parents that are entirely happy with kids learning about genesis in the bible but who react so badly to the idea of a creationist children’s book given out for free.

Stripping Kindle DRM with Lego

This was a neat idea from Hackaday that I wanted to make point about copyright with.  Now I think I’d have saved the link until I actually had a reason to make the point – because at the moment it’s a point made without context.

Recording communication

Here I’m talking about a somewhat awful case in a job centre and using it to gradually pivot to the first post I make about AAC.  I think it’s a good post – I’d write it very very differently now and with a different voice.  But in hindsight it’s clear that I’m just feeling my way forward about putting this sort of thing on the blog.   It’s entirely possibly that I rewrite this article at some point in the future so that it’s a bit more ‘of the moment’.

There’s lots I don’t understand about copyright enforcement…

When trying to find my voice as a blogger, I approached issues about data protection and privacy though a more general context of copyright and piracy, rather than the more complex and interesting context of disability. This most is an example of the early work and I’m afraid that now it comes off as really quite teenage.

Activist dropped by disability charity over offensive tweets

A bit of semi-journalism.  I looked at some of the issues around the dropping of Simon Stevens for the Labour Party conference and came out broadly on his side, although with a wide range of caveats – I’m quite happy with this although I think it’s some distance from where I’ve ended up as a blogger – I think that I’d find the whole episode a bit negative now and I’d try to be writing an article that stayed relevant for longer.


EDIT: As a result of the ‘Earn money for criticizing me‘ pledge, this post earned $2.00 for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

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One year on!

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So after 88,000 visitors, 225 articles, press visits, interviews, guest posts, and a wide range of other things – is one year old today! (Which is why this is a Saturday post, when you might have expected it Friday…)

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It’s been massively more successful than I expected it to be. I had generally intended it as a repository for spare-time projects, but it’s been a really nice place to develop thoughts, share opinions and engage with people.

For an anniversary post I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned over the year in terms of making a blog self sustaining.

This is It could have been, or, or or a reference to an obscure 1990s Sega megadrive game. It’s And that turns out (entirely accidentally) to be a very powerful thing because it lets me write whatever I want. I write posts on literally whatever I happen to find interesting at any given time. Quite regularly I’ll leave a subject for months at a time (it’s been months since I wrote about memory palaces for example).

If I had tried to make a blog about a particular interest I would have failed badly.  But because I made it it can be *mostly* about some of my interests.  So it’s *mostly* about disability because that’s something I’m very interested in.  It’s regularly about narrative.  It’s equally regularly about random bits of code that I think might help people.  A lot of the links that point to turn out to be my productivity posts.  It’s clear that if I’d picked any one of those interests to specialise in I really wouldn’t have got beyond 10 posts.

I’ve ended up as a disability focused blogger – that’s certainly the reason that most of my subscribers subscribe,  but I guarantee you that if I had started out intending to be a disability focused blogger, then I never would have become one.

Being Most of the way there

I was quite lucky when I started that I already had stuff.  I already had a certain amount of presence on the web.  There was things like the 418 Teapot on it’s own page on the computer science servers.  There were things like TooManyCooks that were rattling away in the background, and there was a pile of things hanging around my hard drive that were only a small distance from being ready to put online.   This all meant that when it was time to populate with *things* I really could.  The blog literally came free with the WordPress engine and I started using it.  Had I started with just a few blog posts I would have got disheartened quickly,  but when you know that your other content will attract people (particularly things like the Domesday Dataset) you are motivated to keep writing things.

Blogging turns out to be a relatively easy step if you already have a lot of stuff online – the teapot, the stress graphs, various projects, small things of note.  While I laugh at people who put stuff in storage ‘because they might need it some day’ I’m *still* transferring digital things that probably should have been unpacked within a week.


Cutting your teeth

Cutting your teeth somewhere else first really helped.  I was active at SE a lot before I started blogging, I also vaguely wrote for a living (academically that is), but that’s a very different kettle of fish: reddit, wikipedia, SE, tumblr, are all places where you can work out what your voice is while adding value somewhere else.   Even though I was establishing myself as a blogger already when I started to write for I got a lot of value out of, partly seeing the setup that Phil has over there but also for being able to get used to going to events and being officially there as ‘a journalist’.


Setting the bar very low

One of the major reasons that I ended up with a blog was because I kept finding that I wanted to post a link, but that it needed a little more than 244 characters to put some context around it.  So quite a lot of my posts earlier in the history of this blog are exactly that – a link, a short quote, and a paragraph telling you to visit the link but to bear in mind aspect X.  This added value to the people coming in from Twitter and helped me feel like I wasn’t just throwing information at people.  Over time the context got larger and larger and shortly afterward the links disappeared.  I made a deliberate and public effort to move to more of an article style a few months ago and that’s been pretty successful. Comically this has meant that I’ve once again found that I’m wanted to post twitter links but need a little bit more context with them.  Maybe at some point I’ll move to doing both but I suspect that will degenerate fast.    The point is that for the first three months almost all of my posts where a link and a paragraph of my opinion.  Everything was transient and quick but it ended up building a foundation for much more serious stuff.

(page image is from wikicommons:

This week last year on

These are the posts I was writing this week last year – that’s the 27th September 2013 to about halfway thought the 4th October…Apparently I did nine posts that week.  I was clearly feeling like writing…


Review of Episode 1 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…

Apparently I used to put more reviews in this blog… who knew?

Some minor housekeeping

I closed down my old academic homepage…

Hate crimes legal review


Famous people with disabilities (according to Wikipedia…)

This is probably worth an update… I should update this…

Digital Enlightenment Yearbook 2013: AAC and digital privacy


Open formats in AAC: Part 2

Why I started a blog…

Man With Special Needs Awarded $450K In Discrimination Suit

Patent Trolling and disability

I reviewed Rurouni Kenshin for Live for Films

Make The World: Prosthetics


Link roundup 3

Periodically I create a post that rounds up all of the links I’ve shared or reshared on social media recently. Generally readers like it because they get the best of social media without falling into the giant time sink, and I like it because it helps me make sure that I’m providing useful content.

So here’s the things I’ve been tweeting about recently:

Disability related:

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Who wants to be my 100th subscriber?

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 11.14.49Image credit:

Apologies for the blatant self-promotion; this post is to make you are aware that you can get all the articles, interviews, and guest posts on this site sent to you by email.

The simplest way is to use the subscribe button over on the right hand side. But if you know me then a simple message saying ‘hey, add me’ will work just as well.

There are two advantages – first of all you never miss a post, and secondly I send out the articles by email the day before they go online – so you get everything a day early. (They aren’t getting this post. I admit that would be silly).

Why am I doing this? Well I’ve been looking at my traffic analysis and I was astonished to find that so few people use rss readers. Honestly if I could recommend one thing to make the internet a better place for you it’s to use an rss reader – they are just better. Where this was particularly obvious to me was on the three occasions recently when Lifehacker linked to my page – only a tiny percentage of the visits came via rss reader. And if Lifehacker, that utter evangelist of the rss reader, only has a small proportion of viewers using an rss reader, then my proportion must be tiny…

So if I can’t persuade you of the joys of rss reading, the next best thing is an email list. If you like the articles, guest posts, and interviews that go up on – then sign up using the box on the right and ensure you don’t miss any (and that you get them a day early).

You are in the minority on Twitter, and so is everyone you listen to.

I was on a bus recently and the two gentlemen in front of me were having a conversation that included the line:

“Look, the thing you’ve got to understand about women from Croydon is-“

(as many of my readers are unlikely to encounter women from Croydon I’ll spare you the alleged insight)

Now, whatever you think about the men, the conversation, and the general state of a world that includes both, we can look at the potential value of the information scientifically.

Croyden includes 364,800 people (thank you Wikipedia) of which we can assume roughly 182,400 are female.

Our man on the bus (OMOTB) is unlikely to know all of them, but he may know a significant fraction. Actually this is where Dunbar’s Number is useful (Dunbar’s Number is roughly defined as the total number of people that a human can maintain a social relationship with, remember birthdays, that sort of thing). Dunbar’s number is normally taken as ‘about 150’. So we can assume that OMOTB knows 75 women reasonably well and if we give him the benefit of the doubt that they all live in Croydon then OMOTB knows roughly 0.04% of all the women in Croydon.

Why am I going on about this? Because the man that says “Look, the thing you’ve got to understand about women from Croydon is-” probably knows much more about women in Croydon than ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU HOW TWITTER WORKS KNOWS ABOUT TWITTER.


On average 58 million tweets are sent every day. If you read a random sampling of 0.04% of them every day then you probably know as much about twitter culture as OMOTB knows about women (in Croydon).  It would be a bit difficult because that’s 23,848 tweets, which, at an average length of 60 characters (I was surprised but the data is here) means reading more than the length of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows every day, just in tweets.

I doubt very much that people writing guides on ‘7 rules for Twitter etiquette’ are managing that much reading.

Conversation between two floating heads:  Head 1: "Twitter is such a great resource", Head 2: "What do you tweet about?", Head 1 "I tweet about how everyone should use tiwtter - it's such a great resource!"

 (Although the people running probably *are* and that must look a lot like that scene in Clockwork Orange).

Twitter is big. It’s really big. And people don’t understand this. There are hundreds of utterly unrelated subcultures; Teenagers, followers of Band X, fandoms of all types, people looking for support networks, people looking for and finding photos of topless women, people who use Twitter to fight sexism, people who use as an outlet for racism, people who use it only for sports, people who use it only for political activism, robots that obsess over grammar.

Two floating heads saying the same phrase to each other: "Stop using this advocacy platform to promote your clearly insular beliefs!!"

So when you tell me that “It’s polite on twitter to do X” what you mean is “in my tiny sub-bit of twitter we look down on people who don’t do X”.  When you say “Stephen Fry is massive on Twitter, almost everyone follows him” – you mean “Stephen Fry is massive on twitter, because slightly over 1 in 100 Twitter users follows him”.

I understand that people naturally want to feel that they do things ‘properly’  but the thing to take away from this is that however you use Twitter, you are in the minority. There are more people who do things very differently from you than there are who agree with you. Engage with the rest of the world or don’t, but don’t pretend your way is “the way”.

Two floating heads having a conversation. Head 1: "Is that Twitter any good?", Head 2 "Yeah, I'm learning a lot about wimmin from Croydon"

Everything I’ve retweeted (recently)

I think a lot about how I use things like twitter – I want to make sure that I’m providing useful, or at least interesting information to people. I would like to think I’m making the world a tiny bit better not a tiny bit worse.

This post has two objectives:

  • There are a lot of people who sensibly avoid social media because it takes a lot of time. Those people might find it interesting to look at a list of ‘the cool things Joe has found on social media for the last two weeks’.
  • Equally, I’d like to make sure that I am providing value, so it’s worth it for me to review every link (not including stuff to this blog) I’ve retweeted or posted.  It may well be that I think twice about some things in the future. I’d like to be in a position where I was providing a clear narrative.

So let’s begin.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been interested in:

So that’s my catalog of interesting things for the last couple of weeks. It’s better than I expected in that it is relatively focused, broad, and I’ve managed to avoid preachy or political.   If people find the collection of links useful do let me know and I’ll do one of these every so often.  It helps me keep focused and it would be good if it helped other people to.

I’ve been invited to give a TEDx talk!

So this week I was invited to give a TEDx talk.

(I accepted. Obviously)

I’m astonishingly happy – I’ve worked hard for a long time on a whole range of projects that I think make the world better, and being asked to give a TEDx talk feels so very validating.

I’ll be speaking at this TEDx.  Please excuse the suitably-TEDish intro. I think I’d have to be a little more self confident before I use that as my main bio…

Also please excuse the terrible shortness of this post – but there is only so many words that you need 🙂