Weeknotes #272

Photo of the week:

In the valley of the rocks. A beautiful place with surprising strong mobile phone signal.

This is what I did this week:

Data, data, everywhere

The majority of the week was spent on a piece of work about how we collect information from young people. There are lots of different teams involved as the data is used in lots of different ways, lots of history involved because the way we collect information has been through lots of changes, and lots of current and near-future change because of the evolution of how we measure impact. Hopefully we’ve settled on a solution that means all the teams will get the data they need and young people will find it easier to complete forms. The thing about a digitised and automated world is that somehow, somewhere, someone has to type in the information the system needs. IoT solves that problem by using sensors to generate the data, but the vast majority of data entry depends on humans. The future isn’t a Matrix-style one where humans are used as batteries, it’s one where huge numbers of people spend their days entering data to feed the machines.

What else?

I didn’t do much else this week. I’ve been feeling ill and lacking motivation but I’m keen to get back into the flow of working on projects. To avoid having to do too much creative thinking I’m going to going to focus on adding more to The Ultimate Digital Tools List and setting up NFTs for Stiles.style. I’ve also been thinking about whether to get back into turning my weekly reading list into Twitter threads. It’s kind of counter to the ‘build your Twitter audience with threads’ advice as the only person at the intersection of interest for all that will be on the list is me, but I’ll give it some more thought.

This is what I read:

11 essential laws

Sean Johnson’s 11 Essential Laws of Product Development is one of those ‘go back to regularly and think about again now that your own thinking has progressed’ articles. Some of points it makes still feel relevant four years but more generally it looks like it’s from one particular viewpoint. Product thinking in 2021, in my opinion, shouldn’t adopt a single stance about things like customer driven development. The first question should always be about the problem-to-solve, and the method for figuring out how to solve the problem should come from that. Learn to build or build to learn. How can you possibly adopt an approach without an understanding of the problem space?

Management in the middle

Mary Parker Follett was a genius management thinker. Her thinking was ahead of it’s time a hundred years ago and is probably still ahead of our time today. She said that, “effective management is a participatory, inclusive and nonhierarchical process—not a command and control, direction giving process.”, and that the role of management in the middle of the higher and lower levels of the organisation is to make small changes that keep the two aligned.

Organisations that went remote

Eat Sleep Work Repeat interviewed people from organisations (including a UK charity) that have gotten rid of their offices and have all employees working remotely. There are some interesting insights, including how some companies have appointed a Head of Remote (I’m sure we can all see the same discussions that we had about the use of the word ‘digital’ coming up again soon), and how much going remote was a choice or felt forced upon the org (the difference there seems like an interesting narrative to explore). The podcast doesn’t get the other two sides of the story from those orgs that want to go back to the office full time and those trying to figure out hybrid working (that would make an interesting panel discussion), but it provides an interesting perspective into the reasons why organisations might adopt remote working.

And this is what I thought about:

Two heads are better than one

I’ve been building out my second brain/digital garden/personal information management system/whatever you want to call it. I used put notes and links into Notion, then I started using my website, then that became a pain so now I’m back to using Notion. I’ve added a related database to try to group notes so I’ll see if this helps with bringing ideas together. Thanks to Amy’s tweet, I might try writing every day National Blog Post Month this November. It didn’t go very well when I decided to write every day in October, but this time I’m trying a different approach. No writing ahead of time, only on the day. And whatever I write has to be within my area of interest for digital charity. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Building in public

There are lots of advantages to building in public, whether as a solo creator or writer or whatever. The general consensus on Twitter seems to be that it creates an audience of supportive people that are interested in what you’re building, but I think there’s another, potentially wider benefit. Doing the work and talking about your work require two different skill sets. So whether you’re a solo creator or work in a large organisation, it’s important and useful to develop the skill of talking about your work. One to work on.

The coastline problem

I’ve been thinking more about my nomadic lifestyle and how I might want to write about it The working title is something like, ‘The coastline problem: how life gets bigger the more closely you measure it’. The actual coastline problem says that the smaller the denomination that you use to measure the circumference of something like a country, the bigger the measurement will be. I think there’s a metaphor there about leading an intentional life and making the important things matter in life. Not sure there’s enough there for book but along with all the stuff about digital nomads and outsiders, it could be quite interesting. If I ever get around to writing anything. My coastline map has 137 places that I’ve visited.