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Otters vs. Possums

It’s an odd metaphor, but the behaviours described in terms of internet communities are definitely something I’ve witnessed in 25 years of being online.

(This post is from 2017 but popped up on Hacker News recently.)

Otters

There’s a pattern that inevitably emerges, something like this:

1. Community forms based off of a common interest, personality, value set, etc. We’ll describe “people who strongly share the interest/personality/value” as Possums: people who like a specific culture. These people have nothing against anybody, they just only feel a strong sense of community from really particular sorts of people, and tend to actively seek out and form niche or cultivated communities. To them, “friendly and welcoming” community is insufficient to give them a sense of belonging, so they have to actively work to create it. Possums tend to (but not always) be the originators of communities.

2. This community becomes successful and fun

3. Community starts attracting Otters: People who like most cultures. They can find a way to get along with anybody, they don’t have specific standards, they are widely tolerant. They’re mostly ok with whatever sort of community comes their way, as long as it’s friendly and welcoming. These Otters see the Possum community and happily enter, delighted to find all these fine lovely folk and their interesting subculture.(e.g., in a christian chatroom, otters would be atheists who want to discuss religion; in a rationality chatroom, it would be members who don’t practice rationality but like talking with rationalists)

4. Community grows to have more and more Otters, as they invite their friends. Communities tend to acquire Otters faster than Possums, because the selectivity of Possums means that only a few of them will gravitate towards the culture, while nearly any Otter will like it. Gradually the community grows diluted until some Otters start entering who don’t share the Possum goals even a little bit – or even start inviting Possum friends with rival goals. (e.g., members who actively dislike rationality practices in the rationality server).

5. Possums realize the community culture is not what it used to be and not what they wanted, so they try to moderate. The mods might just kick and ban those farthest from community culture, but more frequently they’ll try to dampen the blow and subsequent outrage by using a constitution, laws, and removal process, usually involving voting and way too much discussion.

6. The Otters like each other, and kicking an Otter makes all of the other Otters members really unhappy. There are long debates about whether or not what the Possum moderator did was the Right Thing and whether the laws or constitution are working correctly or whether they should split off and form their own chat room

7. The new chat room is formed, usually by Otters. Some of the members join both chats, but the majority are split, as the aforementioned debates generated a lot of hostility

8. Rinse and repeat—

Source: Internet communities: Otters vs. Possums | knowingless

What are microcredentials?

I suppose we should have listened when people told the team I was on at Mozilla time and time again that the name ‘Open Badges’ didn’t work for them. They didn’t seem to get the fact that they could call them anything they liked in their organisations; the important thing was that they aligned with the open standard.

A decade later, and ‘microcredentials’ seems to be one term that’s been adopted, especially towards the formal end of the credentialing spectrum. In this interview, Jackie Pichette, Director of Research and Policy for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, takes a Higher Education-centric look at the landscape.

I may be cynical, but it comes across a lot like “that’s all very well in practice, but what about in theory?”

There’s a lot of confusion around the definition of the microcredential. When my colleagues and I started our research in February 2020, just before the world turned upside down, one of our aims was to help establish some common understanding. We engaged experts and consulted literature from around the world to help us answer questions like, What constitutes a microcredential? How is a microcredential different from a digital badge or a certificate?

We landed on an umbrella definition of programs focused on a discrete set of competencies (i.e., skills, knowledge, attributes) that, by virtue of having a narrow focus, require less time to obtain than traditional credentials. We also came up with a typology to show the variation in this definition. For example, microcredentials can be self-paced to accommodate individual schedules, can follow a defined schedule or feature a mix of fixed- and self-paced elements.

Source: How Do Microcredentials Stack Up? Part 1 | The EvoLLLution

Walking the Covid tightrope 

I’m sharing this article mainly for the genius of the accompanying illustration, although it also does a good job of trying to explain an increasing feeling of English exceptionalism.

The results look increasingly alarming. In pubs, in shops, on public transport and in other enclosed spaces where the virus easily spreads, many people are acting as if the pandemic is over – or at least, over for them. Mask-wearing and social distancing have sometimes become so rare that to practise them feels embarrassing.

Meanwhile, England has become one of the worst places for infections in the world, despite a high degree of vaccination by global standards. Case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths are all rising, and are already much higher than in other western European countries that have kept measures such as indoor mask-wearing compulsory, and where compliance with such rules has remained strong. What does England’s failure to control the virus through “personal responsibility” say about our society?

It’s tempting to start by generalising about national character, and how the supposed individualism of the English has become selfishness after half a century of frequent rightwing government and fragmentation in our lives and culture. There may be some truth in that. But national character is not a very solid concept, weakened by all the differences within countries and all the similarities that span continents. Thanks to globalisation, all European societies have been affected by the same atomising forces. England’s lack of altruism during the pandemic can’t just be blamed on neoliberalism.

Other elements of our recent history may also explain it. England likes to think of itself as a stable country, yet since the 2008 financial crisis it has endured a more protracted period of economic, social and political turmoil than most European countries. The desire to return to some kind of normality may be especially strong here; taking proper anti-Covid precautions would be an acknowledgement that we cannot do that.

Source: With Covid infections rising, the Tories are conducting a deadly social experiment | The Guardian