Week 1

Breaking from the regular format of bullet points this week with something a bit more 'blog-posty'.
January 3, 2020

Helloooo 2020. A normal, shorter service resumes next week. Promise.

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🎧Listening to: New Year, new music playlists! Yay! Including: BT, All Hail The Silence, Grinderman, Purity Ring and Yeo. I'm all misty eyed about getting reacquainted with Brian and his wonderfully over-produced music.

📖 Reading: Novocene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock

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Bai Medium

I've had it with the internet. Not really. But I am getting tired of walled-off content farms, especially Medium. When Medium announced their subscription model I was up for it. Made sense: no ads, no BS, just pay a little a month to get good content. Except there wasn't any good content. I guess that's the price you pay for the democratisation the internet gives us all; anyone can write any old shite (yes, I am aware of the irony).

Better writers say it better. An extract from Study Hall:

'It’s a black hole of pseudo-emotional Thought Catalog runoff, corporate strategists spewing productivity hacks, personal lifestyle blogs, professional journalists blogging in their off-hours, and the odd slickly produced feature story. It wavers eternally between an open platform where anyone can post anything, in the mode of Twitter or Facebook, and an actual editorial operation commissioning ambitious original projects that are now paid for (in part) by readers. The problem is telling all the different kinds of content apart—and understanding how they fit together.'

Whilst I am all up for Steve's Top 10 Reasons Why UI Design Is The Same As Rolling A Joint article next to an established author from the New Yorker, I just don't want to pay for it. Make it free if that's what the internet means for the written word. Add a tipping mechanism for Steve and I'll pay for the New Yorker monthly. But that's not the point, is it? Not in this Silicon Valley Libertarian world nightmare. I want to tip Steve, but what about Mediums cut? I digress.

There's also something to be said about my social anxiety and Medium. The platform is effectively a social network - it was originally set up to extend twitters 140 characters. So in 2019, I've come to realise I only have the mental headspace for one network these days and even that is on its last legs.

So as a result, my blog and week notes find themselves in a new home. I kinda like it, feels like an old friend. Reading back my posts about my depression and joining Co-op made me feel awkward. I debated removing them and starting afresh, but it's me and it's my history. But also the internet has a way of remembering.

Werk

This week is a short'un. The two days I was working (well, working from home) I spent most of it catching up on DMs and emails, and planning and thinking about what I want to achieve this year. I dipped in and out of slack checking on the progress of a build for a trial we're launching soon. Sketched some designs for post-launch. It was a nice meandering couple of days, easing into the world of work. FFS I've only had a week off but it feels like a lifetime. Bloody Christmas.

WFH exclusively for two days got me thinking about the benefits of remote working. It's good to have no distractions for a bit and just experiment. Just design. I love working in the office and collaborating, but I'm still a designer and my happy place will always be with my headphones in pushing pixels.

Webflow

Over the Christmas period, I blew the metaphorical dust off of my webflow account. For the readers that don't know, webflow is a powerful website builder. It gives almost the same control as coding the thing from scratch but it is easy for a code layperson like me to manipulate. This site is built on it and has had placeholder text on it since I've joined the Co-op. With the move off Medium and with my eyes growing misty of a prospective return to the early days of my internet life, I jumped in. I gave the site a lick of paint, tidied up some layout, tested it across some browsers and had a general poke around. Feels good.

Knee

Last year I drunkenly signed up for the Manchester marathon. I can run a 10k comfortably and since then I have been keeping my fitness topped up without doing any marathon training proper. On New Year's Eve, I did a fast 5k and it felt good. Christmas had not taken its usual toll on my body this year and I felt positive about the plans I had for running in 2020. I warmed down a little too quickly and started playing with my baby son on the floor. After 10 minutes of sitting cross-legged, I realised I couldn't get up without excruciating pain. Through my work health plan, I got a physio to call me and ask me some questions. He gave me some exercises and already it's started to feel better. As long as it gets better quickly I should be alright for April.

Plant-based diet

Which leads me on to other recent musings. I've been mulling the change to a predominately plant-based diet for some time now (seems the 'V' word is going out of vogue). I did it for two months last year after receiving news that I had very high cholesterol and not the good kind. The new diet completely flipped my results into the green and I was sold on the health benefits. Then Christmas happened.

On the way to pick up a cheeky Nandos with my 16-year-old nephew, he randomly dropped into the conversation he was thinking of going plant-based for the foreseeable future - 'why not?'. He's a keen footballer and is affected by the social media zeitgeist of this age. Both cultures have subcultures promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet.

I then watched Game Changers and it took it to the next level. Don't get me wrong, the film is heavily biased. Produced by James Cameron who has financial interests in veganism and it's unabashedly sensationalist. It plays for the younger generation, with sound bites and uncomfortable pseudo-science. But, even if most of the 'facts' are anecdotal evidence, it's hard to deny how attractive the diet is. Already 2020 is being touted as the last year we have to save the planet with a vegan diet leading the headlines for a change. Many high profile celebrities and sports stars are putting to rest the myths that vegans are iron and protein deprived zombies.

With my knee injury, it's hard not to think of ways to speed up recovery so I'm going to give it a go again. After I've finished the leftover turkey...

Football

At the beginning of December, my team were looking at relegation. The Christmas period has a punishing schedule of fixtures and usually seals the fate for the bottom of the table clubs. I was resigned to life in the Championship.

Enter Nigel Pearson. His appointment felt deeply uninspiring. Since the Pozzo take over Watford have had a string of ambitious, flamboyant mini Mourinho's. Our previous coach, Javi Gracia, was well-liked at the club and had success with getting to the FA Cup final. But the board were impatient with back to back losses. It was hard to see what the problem was. We had good players and we were playing good football.

Since his take over the club has looked bounced back with wins against United and a strong looking Wolves. Looking forward to shoring up the defence in the January transfer window.

New year, new goals

I've already posted about my goals for 2020. Every year I see a divergence of opinion on twitter for this kind of stuff. Some people are in the love it camp and encourage it. Then some in are in the 'life's too short' camp. Both opinions are cool. You do you. But it always makes me reflect on my motivations for publicly publishing my hopes and dreams.

First, why not? In the past 3/4 years, I have become a bit of an over-sharer. In my early adult life, I was a typical introvert and I struggled with depression and anxiety about my self-worth. I discovered whole communities of people through the internet with similar feelings and it built my confidence up. These people communicated these anxieties through blogs and tweets like mine. I felt connected. This is my way of giving back through the same methods.

Secondly, writing and reflecting is a way of developing myself. Articulating myself in type helps me organise my thoughts. I write almost everything down in my notion personal wiki and most of that ends up on the internet. Who knows, it might help or inspire someone.

Design leadership

Two of my goals are:

2020 is the year I figure out what the first one means. Looking back on my 2019 year note I said I didn't know what value I'm adding. This year I will create value by determining what I enjoy out of leadership, focussing on creating some principals around my leadership style and building a team around those principals.

Anyway that's that. First week down. Next week will be less wordy. Promise. If you made it this far. Congratulations.

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Image credit: Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

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