Weeknotes #217

This week I:

Barriers as assumptions

I’ve been working through a complex solution design and requirements for joining five systems together to create a more cohesive process for young people joining programmes. I really enjoy figuring out solutions like this, woking through them step-by-step in my head into I hit a barrier and then back-tracking to the last veritably true position before I made an assumption that led to the barrier. That’s how I view barriers, not as technical limitations of the systems but as reflections of inaccurate assumptions. I think applies to lots of things.

Pipeline and platform digital business models

I wrote a blogpost about how pipeline business models are enabled by platform business models which are enabled by the internet, all built on top of each other and forming our ever-changing economic ecosystem.

Should you build a microsite?

I often see some hating on microsites across Twitter, so I wrote a blog post about when they should and shouldn’t be used. Microsites aren’t bad, they’re just misunderstood.

Digital tools

I’ve added 79 digital tools to my workspace. Some of my favourites are Narakeet, a tool that turns PowerPoint slides into narrated videos, Pory, which generates a website from AirTable data, and Daily140 which optimises Twitter into an email.

To improve the charity sector focus on the weak links

Rather than getting the big visible charity sector organisations to improve how they do things like inclusive hiring, the sector would benefit more from helping the people and organisations that don’t even think of themselves as part of the charity sector.

And thought about:

Learning as a criteria for success

I’ve been thinking about how I’m much more interested in learning than I am in building stuff or making money, or other tangible outcome. Some of those entrepreneurial types I see on Twitter seem to measure themselves by how much money they made on Gumroad, but at the moment I don’t feel that focusing on one thing for long enough in order to do that is interesting. So, I wonder what the criteria for successful learning might look like. How do I know I’m learning the stuff I want to learn at a sufficient pace?

Show & tell vs. Record & replay

Providing a show and tell to update stakeholders on progress and gain buy-in for continuing is ineffective. I know it’s considered an important part of modern digital practice, but I don’t like it. Show and tells take a lot of time to prepare, take up a lot of time in total for all the people that attend, and lock useful information away in PowerPoint presentations that no one will be able to find later. They are a high-cost, low-value activities. Better, I think, to create knowledge bases, where organised information compounds and increases in value over time, which stakeholders can access asynchronously when suits them.

How we represent things

When we map out a journey, such as how someone uses a website for example, we tend to make it linear, simplify it, make it work for us. And when we do so, how we represent that journey is a reflection on how true we choose to be to the experience of that person. If we don’t recognise and take on board all the wrong turns, changing decisions, misunderstandings, etc., then we are saying they don;t exist to us. We diminish their experience. I don’t know how to represent the fullness of the human experience but I know ignoring isn’t an option.

And read:

What fifty years of believing Friedman did to us

Kyle Westway wrote a brilliant piece for his blog and newsletter about the influence Milton Freidman’s essay titled “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” has had on our approach to business and the world we live in. The idea that the sole purpose of a business is to make money for its few stakeholders in competition with other businesses who are also trying to make money solely for it’s stakeholders has powered the late twentieth century’s industrialisation that has caused greater inequality in society and massive environmental damage. Replacing it (I say that like it’s happening because it has to, the world economic markets cannot continue to follow Friedman’s brand of Shareholder Capitalism) is the idea of Stakeholder Capitalism, that a business has a responsibility to all of the people and parts of the planet that are affected by it doing business. I wonder if any charities report on a triple bottom line

‘We Blew It.’ Douglas Rushkoff’s Take on the Future of the Web

Douglas Rushkoff is a futurist, author, early cypherpunk and professor of media studies at Queens College. His early writings on the internet paved the way for thinking about the web in revolutionary terms, as a tool to enfranchise and connect the world. He talks about how the internet has been monopolised by a few tech giants and is used in ways that reflect our societies means of participating in our underlying economy. He says that “climate change is the most pressing issue. Unless growth-based economics and corporate capitalism are reversed, there’s no way to stop it.”

Hacking is a Mindset, Not a Skillset

Spydergrrl’s presentation to the Geek Girls on how hacking is a mindset was an very interesting read. The hacker mindset is made up of accepting challenges (using barriers as motivation), getting outside the box (of our usual thinking, being creative), bringing your friends (because we solve problems better when we work together), give it away (sharing information empowers others) and pay it forward (teach others to think like hackers). I was looking for something like this after the idea that leaders (well, in fact everyone) should take more of a hacker approach to problem solving, specifically, if you are going to have to solve the same problem again in the future make sure that the solution you create now can be reused rather than having to start from scratch every time.

And a few people tweeted:

Diverse and inclusive boards

Kim Shutler tweeted a thread on diversity & inclusion on Boards. It’s an interesting read about implicit privilege, elitism and exclusiveness of charity boards. It made me think about our society’s and sector’s approach to governance and what new models of thinking about it our available.

Innovating at the systems level

David Perell tweeted “Innovating at the systems level is much higher leverage than innovating at the tool level, but tools give you an instant rush of happiness.” in response to Tiago’s tweet saying “I will always use whatever is the most mainstream, broadly accessible, user friendly notes app. I have no interest in innovating at the tool level”. The idea of being able to innovate at different levels, and that different levels have more or less leverage is really interesting to me. It kind of fits with my ideas about changing worldviews over centuries and changing practices over a number of years. The short term change feels better because it’s noticeable but the long term change has greater impact.

Action leads to insight

Joe Jenkins tweeted “action leads to insight more often than insight leads to action” from the book Power of Moments. That’s something I can completely get behind. Learn by doing.

Should I build a microsite?

Talk to most people in Digital about microsites and they’ll pull a face of disgust. Why, what’s wrong with microsites?

The answer, really, is nothing. There is nothing wrong with using microsites to solve particular problems. The issues arise when microsites are used to solve the wrong problems. Let’s see if we can figure when to and not use a microsite.

When not to build a microsite

If the microsite:

  • won’t have any specific functionality that the main website doesn’t have,
  • will have the same branding and identity as the main site,
  • takes visitors on a similar journey, and
  • is seen by stakeholders as a ‘shiny new thing’ that will allow the organisation to move faster because the existing infrastructure and technology used by the main site is out-of-date and not meeting organisational and user needs.

…then a microsite probably isn’t the right solution.

Sometimes a new microsite is seen as a way to paper over the cracks of existing technology, and if that’s all it’s doing then it’s making the situation worse. However, if introducing a microsite on a new tech stack is part of the plan to iteratively move towards replacing the existing website, then this can often be a better approach than a large single project to replace one big system with another. Building what is needed as those needs are identified is a much better approach.

When to build a microsite

If the microsite needs:

  • to meet a completely separate user need than the main site,
  • to have specific functionality that the main website doesn’t have, for example customer support and knowledge base functionality,
  • to have it’s own branding and identity but be closely associated with the branding and identity of the main site, e.g. for a specific marketing campaign,
  • to enable a user journey between to two sites, and/or
  • to (or at least wants to) make use of the domain authority of the main site,

…then a microsite could be the right solution.

There are other ways to achieve all of those things on the list, so it doesn’t mean that a microsite is always the right solution, but they can have additional advantages such as diversified infrastructure so that if one website goes down the other isn’t affected, and disadvantages if built by an agency using technology that no one in house has experience with and doesn’t know how to maintain.

When to question the decision to build a microsote

Always. Especially if stakeholders have already decided there needs to be a microsite before any discovery work or requirements gathering has happened.

Should I build a microsite?

If you need to. Keep an open mind, do the discovery work to understand the problem, and then build a microsite if its the right solution.

And take no notice of the looks of disgust from people who make decisions without knowing what problem is being solved.

What’s the difference between a website, microsite and web portal?

Understanding the differences between websites, microsites and web portal by dividing them by whether they are public or private lines and generic or specific.


  • Public web presence
  • Generic target audience
  • Generic purpose


  • Public web presence
  • Specific target audience
  • Specific service/functionality

Web Portal

  • Private web access
  • Specific target audience
  • Specific service/functionality

Or, to look at it a different way…

Generic audience & functionalityWebsite
Specific audience & functionalityMicrositePortal