There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in
First of all, thank you to everyone who’s said nice things about this new website. And more crucially, perhaps, to those with more suggestions on how to make it clearer still. Thankfully, the design is built for iteration, and so all suggestions, improvements and comments are welcome.
The purpose behind redesigning the site is to create a space that naturally helps expand on the ideas that I’ve been pulling together over the last few months.
To do that requires more writing, talking, making and sharing. Making sure there are cracks for the light to get in. The crucial lesson then is that rather than trying to perfect things in isolation, I want to keep finding new places to talk and explore the topics with folk.
It was really useful, in this regard, that Jess and Phil at Subsector invited me to be their guest on a Subsector Short, a (supposedy) five minute discussion slot on a particular topic. I chose to see what would happen if I tried a crunchy, straightforward description of the idea that information is light, not liquid, the first of the TENET tools.
Already it’s generated some great thoughts elsewhere about the concept, and how it butts up against other conventions in interesting ways.
I’ve also put together a Miro board to walk people around the thinking. I’m gradually pulling examples and projects into as a way of developing a relevant narrative in conversation with guests.
It is a little like being a tour guide around your own head, so I’m experimenting with quick introductions and then leaving folk to wander through at their own leisure over subsequent days.
Over time, it may be something I can just open up for everyone, if there is enough DIY guide material in there that helps people follow a rough route.
Finally, as I’ve been writing about topics, ideas naturally occur to me on how to visualise them.
For instance, one of the tools, Kaleidoscopes, is based on some work called Flow Engines which I talked about way back in 2014, at things like Brilliant Noise’s Dots Conference, and the Happy Startup Summercamp.
It evolved into the Smithery logo too, a glanceable glyph to continually prompt a way of setting up productive working practices.
What evolved in combination with the new thinking was a need to accentuate the visual aspects of work more – especially relevant when thinking about when planning and running workshops remotely. How do you make sure people see the elements being ‘brought to the table’ and make connections they otherwise wouldn’t have?
The Kaleidoscope metaphor was a natural fit here, as a way of reminding people that no matter how creative the output, the inputs can be quite delightfully mechanical. You need to put all the materials together in such a way that participants can simply twist the devices themselves to see new possibilities. A simple bit of After Effects helps bring that to life, I think.
(And it also gave me the chance to make a GIF of a classic moment from High-Rise…)
If you fancy a tour of the board, do let me know, I’m really interested in the opportunities people can see for the tools for teams in a wide variety of different work. More soon.
I went to our local high street today in Haywards Heath. I had an errand to run; my watch battery ran out two weeks into lockdown, and I wanted to get it fixed at the independent jeweller (hey, kids, support local businesses where you can).
Knowing I’d have an hour or so to wait, I took my camera (and mask), and looked around at what a high street looks like when its trying to reopen in the age of COVID-19.
The graphic designers of Britain have certainly been busy.
And individually, they’ve no doubt interpreted the prevention strategy of each individual shop or organisation as best they can, to communicate to shoppers what is expected of them, and what staff are doing in return.
But together, as an experienced the extraneous cognitive load on the working memory of shoppers is certainly substantial. As you move from shop to shop, you would find yourself navigating through slightly different interpretations of the broad rules. Sometimes it’s 2 metres, sometimes it’s 2 metres if you can. Some places, only one person per household. In others, one person per household plus one child.
It doesn’t help that a lot of the instructions are in full brand regalia, and so it takes a second or two to locate where the information is.
All in all, it feels exhausting, through the inconsistency.
Perhaps now is not the time for freedom of expression. If the powers-that-be want high streets to function for shoppers, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to have centralised production and distribution for communicating how to shop. Consistent posters, stickers, floor graphics, window vinyls and so on; same colours, shapes, instructions.
Perhaps in the age of COVID-19, the high street needs traffic signs, not billboards.
There’s a giant tadpole in our pond, the amphibian Jaws of suburban Sussex.
I started wondering if it had just had a head start out the frogspawn, and so did some research. In a way, it probably has had a leap ahead, but from last year, not this. It turns out that if the conditions aren’t right to turn into a frog (too much competition for food, weather, etc), some tadpoles just stay as tadpoles during the winter. Waiting, feeding, growing. Then when the spring conditions come round again, they’re first out the gate, and become bigger than average frogs.
This is perhaps a year to live in the pond, and become a stronger frog when spring comes around again.
“The venture, led by London-based architects Wilson Owens Owens, provides a unique focal point when fans arrive and delivers a recognisable starting point for their experience at the world’s largest dedicated rugby stadium.”
So say England Rugby, on their site, about the new Twickenham entrance gates.
In reality, it turns out they’ve tried to send as many people past this ‘focal point’ as they can, and it takes twice as long to get in. Well done, architects.
It seems somewhat fitting that it’s the tenth anniversary of The Do Lectures this weekend; it was there at their fifth iteration I met Fraser Hamilton, and tomorrow is his last day at Smithery.
For five years we’ve worked together, at first with Fraser on an internship, then freelance, then full-time. He’s been a vital companion on the continuing Smithery journey, as it productively picks its way through the sunny uplands towards whatever peaks we next spot on the horizon. At this point in that journey though, there’s a path into a year or two of specialism beckoning, so Fraser’s joining our friends at Adaptive Lab as a service designer…
…I was about to type ‘we’re glad he’s going to a really good home”, but that just sounds like he’s a puppy who’s been mithering the designer furniture, so I’ll leave that there…
Every day working with Fraser has been a pleasure. I’ve never worked with someone before who’s so eager to learn and stretch themselves, to combine their talents they’ve developed over the years with things the’ve never even tried before, to ask good questions that they know need to be asked even if they feel uncomfortable doing so, and to be such thoroughly good company in any situation.
Fraser, you will go far. See you on the mountain paths, my friend.
I was very excited to be invited to Oslo to give the final keynote of the Webdagene conference. It’s one of my favourite cities, and the speaker line-up was immense too – you should check out all of the talks.
My talk was an updated version of the Metastrategy idea, with cleaner entry points into the theory, and an extended practical back-end. Please enjoy, and as always questions, additions and thoughts in the comments below are most welcome.
I did a wee talk at the fabulous IAM 2016 conference in Barcelona. In it’s second year, and conceived and run by Andres & Lucy of Wabisabi Lab, it’s the kind of weird experimental conference that London was great at a few years back, but seems less so, now, I think? Something something gentrification something something.
(actually, maybe that’s another blog post for another day – the lack of joy in NeuLondon, in all forms of work and play)
I spoke about Metamechanics, and working out how the internet works. Or, indeed, not, because that isn’t the point.
There will be a video some time soon I believe, and at the time, I did a simultaneous Periscope of it (but ‘you had to be there’ as they say, given how Periscope streams expire after 24 hours or something…)
….but until then here are the slides, and two pics Scott sent me afterwards where it looks like I’m showing people who big the internet a) was and b) is now.