myWeek (s4e05)

Storytime

Ended the week in Manchester..

I had quite the week really — it was full of inspiring talks, mundane work and a couple of days when I was sick as a dog. Highs and lows.

Work wise I got a fair bit done — I have returned to using a slightly modified version of to-do.txt to keep me on track. It is just a simple plain text file with some basic formatting rules (loosely based on Gina Trapani’s original approach) and synched via Dropbox. Try as I might I just don’t get on with any of the to-do apps out there — they always seem heavy handed and while I quite like Evernote for them even that seems a bit much. My preference remains scribbled notes around my desk but its not as easy in a co-working place as when you have a desk nest! So a plain text file that follows my about is the next best thing.

I did a bunch of content work — converting a long Word file into a Google Doc so that I could use a plug-in to convert it to Markdown before I tidied the Markdown up in iAWriter and then slice it all up into the ‘chunks’ it was stored as in Github (because developers still think Github is an appropriate content management system). There was some swearing but actually it was all pretty smooth. Steve took the real pain by copying it all over to Github and checking the diffs.

I spent some time planning and arranging our first team meeting for Wednesday — I’ve produced quite a tight agenda — probably more structured than I would usually go with but it is easier to loosen things up than tighten them in my experience. I’m really looking forward to it — I have even bought a bunch of new Post-Its and dusted off the Sharpies.

The team launched the lovely looking new version of the MapIt site. Not only does it look great but it is much easier to sign up for now and (I think) easier to grasp the opportunities it offers. Apart from writing a blogpost (that will go live Monday morning) and some involvement in some conversations I had very little to do with this but it is the first big change since I showed up and in theory is in the Better Cities practice.


There were a few calls — including an especially interesting one with a much more data centric start-up than us but with similar principles and interest in ‘better cities’. We are looking to do something a bit more joined up in the future. I also spent a bit of time converting some of our pitch slide decks into something more generic to save time in future.

Wednesday was an especially good day (despite me feeling pretty rough) as we had an office full — Rachel, Stu, Sam, Steve, myself and later Tony were all in at Desklodge which is pretty rare for a remote organisation.

The week was punctuated though with a bunch of events I attended. Tuesday I popped over to the Watershed to listen to Steven Johnson talk about his new book Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World. I always enjoy his perspective and have seen him talk a couple of times before — again it was interesting and fun but the format (the Inside the Actors Studio approach!) didn’t really work. A nice way to spend a lunch hour though and plenty to ponder.

Friday I attended ‘The Story’. I haven’t been for a few years — it is not at all work related and basically plays into my path not traveled, alternate universe version of myself where my dreams of being a writer came true. It was a fascinating and inspiring day — it is never really fair to pick out particular talks when they are all so amazing but on the long train ride up to Manchester that evening I found myself returning to the talks from Ingrid Burrington on luxury, survivalists bunkers and things being terrifyingly mundane, David Conn on his work around Hillsborough (I was pretty choked up be this — it is one of my primary memories from my childhood and always effects me), Ewen Spencer talking about youth sub-culture and how now people know who Stormzy is it is all over for grime (though given most of the audience seemed not to have heard of him I think it might be ok!) and the amazing work of Clara Westaway Gaggero at Special Projects — seriously just watch this video — it is soooooo brilliant.

Saturday I was in Manchester for ‘World Information Architecture Day’. At the start of my career I often described myself as a budding IA — I had come to the web via librarianship and it seemed the most likely path for me — it didn’t quite work out that way but I will forever have a soft spot for the profession.

Jonathan came up and for I think the first time we did a talk about the ONS website project as a double hander — usually I just take credit for his work! The talk seemed to go down well which was nice — it was a positive way to end that chapter I think. The site launched a year ago and I’ve been gone almost six months so it is time for me to stop talking & writing about that project now. It will always be something I’m massively proud of — mainly for how we did it and who I did it with to be honest but “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” and the future (of all that) belongs to Andy, Ian and their team.

The whole event was great and the opener by Stuart Curran about comics and IA was a cracker (I might have been the perfect audience for it!) and Cennydd Bowles closed it down with an incredibly thoughtful treatise on Ethics in the AI Age which is something that (a) I find fascinating and (b) struggle with the theory so it was good to get the brain in gear.

Thanks to Barry and Rick for the invite.

So here I am — home but knackered. Tired but pretty inspired 🙂

Another busy one next week — a couple of client meetings, speaking at BathHacked (come along!), the first birthday of the ONS website and OpenDataCamp. Phew!