It’s been enjoyable seeing people’s personal weeknotes springing up, writing about what they got up to and thought about as a person rather than a work-machine cog. Mark does good ones, Anna too, and my RSS-to-Pocket Zapier feed is growing nicely. Feels like more people are trying to make the web personal again.
So here’s what I did or thought about during the festive break.
Books were read
I finished reading Eden Medina’s Cybernetic Revolutionaries, which tells the story of Project Cybersyn, an endeavour by the Chilean government to create a distributed decision support system using computers and feedback loops to help measure and manage the economy. In layman’s terms, it’s Estonia’s e-government but done in the early 1970s. It’s really worth a read, lots of food-for-thought on the boundary between technology and politics, worker/citizen participation, etc.
I started and finished Erebus: the story of a ship by Michael Palin, which is all about the Arctic and Antarctic exploratory missions of the 1840s, on HMSs Erebus and Terror. I first came across the story after watching AMC’s The Terror on a flight back from Thailand in 2018, a really neatly done little series based on a book written by Dan Simmons. Having only read material from the National Maritime Museum beforehand, Palin’s book does well to frame the ambition of the missions, their respective successes and failures and – in the extreme – tries to paint a picture of what it’d be like living stranded on a ship in the Arctic ice for five years. Spoiler: it’d be awful.
After that, I picked up Tim Maugham’s Infinite Detail, a cautionary tale about the technology-augmented anthropecene, the Internet-of-Everything and basic human values. It’s set in Bristol too, making wry and humorous takes on the city, but also becoming something of a love letter to Brizzle. Makes me miss being in the city. I’m recommending it to everyone, and it’s only £2 on Kindle.
Hills were walked
Ventured up Carn Fadryn, a five-hectare Iron Age hillfort in North Wales, and shared the walk on Go Jauntly. I’m a real nerd for trying to get into the mindset of ancient Britons and Carn Fadryn is as evocative as Caer Caradoc. The roundhouses have stone bases, hidden in a nook on the northwestern side of the hill, to shelter from the gales blowing off Porth Neigwl. We were nearly blown off the top actually, so you can imagine how harsh a landscape it would have been to live in with wool clothes and woad walls.
Spied a petrified forest down on the beach at Porth Neigwl too, that was cool.
Food was eaten (and thought about)
Ate too much, naturally.
But also we had a think about our food shopping and cooking. I want to write separately about trying to stick to a mostly vegetarian diet based on seasonal British product, but we got a few veg cooking books for Christmas to help with that. Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast: autumn/winter, Anna Jones’s The Modern Cook’s Year and old-favourite Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Every Day.
- A subscription to the New York Times is worth it for the mini crossword alone.
- Setting a more strict Screen Time and Downtime regimen has helped me be a bit more mindful about how I’m using my waking hours.
- I bought tickets to see Joe Armon-Jones, Moses Boyd and the Swamp 81 crew.
- Tempted by South Circular too.
- I’m really enjoying cigars.
Read a lot of articles too.
- People, patience and systems – first thoughts on leaving the civil serice, 6 mins
- Civil servants civilly serve, 9 mins
- Anger as Patel bids to restrict end to end encryption in apps such as Facebook, 3 mins
- Data as institutional memory, 7 mins
- Emerging Digital Technologies & Citizen Participation, 6 mins
- Participatory design tools and methods, 3 mins
- How we transformed the BBC iPlayer team into an innovation machine, 10 mins
- The Power of Experience Mapping, 6 mins
- On being and doing in Government, 5 mins
- The Changing Economics of Electronic Music: Part 1, 39 mins
- The Changing Economics of Electronic Music: Part 2, 51 mins
- The Decade Tech Lost Its Way, 78 mins
- 9 Delightful Tips for Living a Smarter Life in 2020, 13 mins
- Building a Solar Powered Website, 9 mins
- How to Actually, Truly Focus on What You’re Doing, 8 mins
- George the Poet: I rejected MBE over ‘pure evil’ of British empire, 3 mins
- The rise of the personal brand: how selling out became cool in the 2010s, 14 mins
- How the Entertainment Industry Solved Piracy, Then Made It Popular Again, 5 mins
- Dopamine fast: ‘The hunger and boredom were intense’, 7 mins
- Dominic Cummings, government transformation and digital twins, 5 mins
- Sly & Robbie: Real Drum and Bass, 6 mins
Tracks I discovered or loved in 2019. Jazz, soul, various beats and bass, harkening back to a golden era of going out.
An impromptu beer with Trilly on Monday set me up for a reflective week. Here's to the next 12 months.
Things I read about digital government, product management, design thinking, the Web and data in 2019.