1. selfie time again

    Apparently, old people need to wear glasses.

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  2. I'm sick of Twitter, folks. I've decided to do something both mild and drastic about it. For 2018, I have resolved to stop using it.

    I am not sure what it is for anymore, it certainly doesn't feel like it is for me. I think I've been disengaging slowly for the last couple of years, and in 2017 I repeatedly found it too aggravating, and depressing to engage with. I think I would have already ragequit, had one of last year's resolutions not been that silly selfie thing. Thus a seed was planted about resolutions and exits. Brains often work that way. (Referendums are silly though)

    I was late to twitter. I downloaded my twitter archive, whilst I was scraping out all of the 2017 selfies, and apparently my first tweet is from Dec 2007.

    I was late to Battlestar Galactica as well.

    I probably spent a little while reading twitter before registering, although I don't remember anything specific. I can't remember why I signed up in the first place. Looking at that first month of odd, stilted entirely quotidian status posts, I can tell I'm working on Logical Bee, mostly alone, babysitting that dog. It's winter. Maybe I'm lonely? I have a dim memory of thinking it was pretty dumb for a long while before getting involved at all. I remember fiddling about connecting it to things, and experimenting with SMS tweets and emails. I don't think it really clicked for the longest while. I remember a sense of a clique I wasn't ever going to be able to get into. That first wave of web-natives, younger than my generation. More entuned to a web of application services and APIs than hypertexts and data servers. I remember tweetups being a thing, and a Bristol one being announced, and spending an hour or two before deciding firmly I wasn't the kind of person that went to that kind of thing. I quite wish I had gone now. I didn't used to be a very good joiner-in of things. I'm not much better at that now. A little bit, perhaps. Now I know to try.

    It took the longest while, but eventually it clicked. I liked the lightness of it. It was sort-of social networking, but social networking at arms length. Lots of irony, lots of whimsy. I just remembered the earliest phase of my binning Facebook was to convert my facebook to just echo my tweets back into it, for the muggles to read. I remember being very snobby and standoffish about things like hashtags and @replies. My first reply wasn't until August 2008.

    To Daveh! Either I don't know how to reply yet, or the Twitter archive has incorrectly threaded that reply back together. Either seems plausible.

    I didn't use a hashtag until May 2009. Even then I was repurposing "get off my lawn" meta-commentary. Amused to see that my next half dozen hashtags are complaining about moonfruit's use of them for viral marketing. Many years later I ended up working there for a season. Again we see the seeds are sown, and the fruit is reaped.

    Not too ashamed of that one. It's interesting looking back at tweets like that, I have a sense that the prevailing vibe of Twitter at the time was that the cool kids were beating out the idiots. I don't get that vibe off Twitter now.

    By this point it was clearly very firmly entrenched in my daily desktop routine. Once I got hold of smartphones that could run twitter, I think my usage ramped up. I remember by the time I got to last.fm, I was tweeting all the things, curating a couple of hashtags (#fantasypeelsessions for serendipitous word groups that sounded like band names, #fisharecool for cool fish facts), running multiple joke twitter accounts, writing bots, and generally really enjoying it. I remember when I got to Makeshift, and twitter seemed to be used as the wiring behind at least half of everything there, it then seemed like a necessary internet plumbing for web apps. With hindsight I think that was the peak. It was downhill from there. I don't like it any more, I have detected an opportune moment, and I have decided to leave. At least for one year.

    I'm not going to use this post for arguing about why I think it's broken. One of the largest problems I have with it is the sheer concentration of negativity. And one of the reasons I want to move away from it is to focus on building things that are more positive. It's not just Twitter. I'm pretty broken-hearted with the state of the web in 2017 - it's very far from what I signed on to help build as one of those idealistic Gen X web 1.0 types. And again, rather than just bemoan that, I'd rather start focusing on ways to think about fixing that. And for me, in 2018, this means I'm going to go small, and focus on building things and content I can own, in the sidelines. I expect I will be updating here more. I plan to double-down a bit harder on indieweb things, and federated stuff. POSSE all the things. Death to silos. I've been experimenting with micro.blogs and mastodon.social, and I want to play more with beaker and dat, and blockstack and IPFS and other idealistic p2p proto-webs. Maybe even frogans?. The real web looks more like that. Maybe I can help figure out how to make it a bit easier for everyone to clamber onboard.

    "But CMS, I think we're Twitter-friends, what does this mean for US?"

    First off, that's flattering, almost-certainly-entirely-imaginary-cms-fan, thanks! I like you too! Occasionally some of my tweets get as many as five or six engagements, and I do enjoy keeping up with some lovely people. Some of whom I met or perhaps only know through twitter. I'm sorry if this feels like a breakup; It's not you, it's me, as they say in the rom-coms. (Actually, I'm not dumping anyone.)

    Something else I want to push for in 2018 is better quality, stronger, social engagement. I want to cultivate more real contact, more high bandwidth engagement and connection with all the good people. This can work two ways of course. If you only really interact with me on a tweet by tweet basis, and you think you're going to miss that, then do please reach out. We can have coffee, or get beers, or just go fish in a lake or something else entirely. And I'm going to be pushing myself to reach out to more people in turn myself, something I'm astronomically poor at. Please help me with this if you can!

    IRL networking I plan to ramp up a bit. More meetups, tech and maybe otherwise. Maybe I'll rescind my conference ban. Maybe I'll start some of these things, or start helping to organise them more.

    I'm not doing an *infocide*. As well as publishing things hanging from here, which has plenty of RSS feeds, if you can still figure out how to integrate those into your workflows then I'll probably never be very far away. Also, if you look at the home page, there's a list of dozens of other not-Twitter platforms you can stalk me on or connect to me via (maybe we are already!) - If my plan comes together, I hope to be syndicating and updating the useful ones of these more actively.

    I don't intend to delete or remove my twitter account, and I will set things up so I still get notifications, so nobody gets ignored. I might even automate some notifications to my twitter feed about updates to things elsewhere. I'm just not going to be participating as a human. I expect I will remove all the apps, so my turnaround on mentions might slow right down.

    If you're in the select category of people who only know how to contact me with twitter, there are many options. I haven't changed my phone number, should you know me well enough to have one of those. If you're looking for a way to DM to me, I cannot endorse keybase strongly enough. I think they're trying to do something really interesting, and could do with some more network effect. Sign up to keybase, and keybase message me, I love getting keybase messages, and I always respond. Invite me to your keybase groups! Also, please share your slacks and your newsletters and your mailing lists with me, if you think I'd like them, or they'd like me.

    Email still works, and I still read it. My address is even on my website.

    Finally, if you're reading this, and we've Twitter interacted in some way, let me say a goodbye for now. If I was annoying, or argumentative, I'm sorry, I can be hard work soemtimes. Maybe some of that might have been caused by the platform? If I was fun or charming or interesting, then let's work to stay in touch! If you don't really care, you're not even sure how you got here from off of twitter, that's cool too, maybe I'll see you again in a year from now.

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  3. In 2017 I decided to take, and tweet, a selfie at every single standup meeting I attended. Here they all are.

    It started out as a bit of a joke, at the start of the year documenting the fact that I was the only member of the, by then rapidly dwindling, LMN platform team at work for the first weeks. When I thought about it a little bit more I decided it might make a nice new year's resolution to add to the 2017 set. I'm a relentless, quixotic, self-improver, and I decided a selfie at every standup might make an interesting project.

    I really don't like having my photograph taken. I wondered if making myself do it enough might work as a half-assed form of exposure therapy. As a professional software developer in 2017, I could expect to be attending at least one standup/scrum meet a day. By the end of the year, I might be not so uncomfortable standing in front of a camera.

    A couple of rules. Every standup meet, even if there were multiple in a day. First shot, no matter how terrible. Immediately to twitter with it, no editing, filters, or multiple shots.

    By and large I think it worked. It's quite interesting looking back at them all now, a year later. Although I didn't plan it this way, I ended up switching jobs twice in 2017, so there's a document of me shifting out and in of three different roles and teams. It's interesting for me, reading my facial expression and mapping that onto how well or badly I know the meetings to be going at that point of time. So much hair, so little outfit variety. Originally, I was snapping quite a few of them on my XPS 13 webcam, because there was a lot of remoting in through Google Hangouts at Wonderbly, but eventually they're all WileyFox Swift2 and eventually 2X with maybe a couple of Jolla C shots

    You can see me losing interest somewhat in the device as time pans out - they start out with lots of experimentation of poses and framing and composition, but the second half of the year it's mostly routinely, quick-snapped head-shots. This isn't helped by the fact that the offices got a little bit duller. Synthace might be set within a literal vetinary hostpital, with all kinds of attendant freakish wonders, but for the entirety of my short tenure we were camped out in a very tight spot, with the standups awkwardly crammed into a tiny meeting room, or taken on the balcony.

    There's a few cameos, which are probably my favourite bits. @tomcartwrightuk is there, as is @dankitchen_uk, and there's a @paulcuth photobomb. And the ancient dog gets into one. I'm glad he's in there. I haven't written about the dog yet, and I need to soon.

    How well did it work? A bit. I don't flinch or freak out about how to act in front of a camera quite so much as I used to. I occasionally snap a selfie just for the heck of it. I accidentally ended up at the front of the Zego group shot that ended up going out with the press kit, and spent a day fielding queries from friends wondering why I was featured so heavily on techcrunch. I still don't enjoy looking at myself in photos, but I think I've started to engage with that more constructively. As resolutions go, I think I won this one.

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  4. Pier of the year

    I do like a pier. Hastings pier is sort of, kind of, maybe my literal favourite place on earth. I've written about it before (back in 2006! My goodness). I was born in that town, for some unlikely reason, my folks were passing through, ostensibly visiting relatives. Locals say if you're born there you can't ever leave. Indeed, perhaps I never completely did. I have lots of childhood memories of that pier, flying visits to stay with unfamiliar relatives, whereupon a visit to the pier would inevitably be bestowed upon we whinging children. It seemed a pretty magical place for a child, in the seventies, with it's fading halls of entertainments, and tat shops, and all the usual coin-operated novelties, and lights and mirrors, and cheap confectionery, and sea-angling platforms, and peeking through the floorboards straight down to the murky brown-blue depths.

    Many years later, as a confused, transplanted teenager, half-foreign, I returned there to live, adding a little more weight to the local prophesy. I have tons of memories of the place from this era. I seemingly spent the entirety of my sullen late teens sitting underneath it, reading WATCHMEN, with The Sisters of Mercy glued to my ears on my panasonic RQ-KJ1. You could freely move beneath it in those days, before health and safety became too muddled with political correctness. There were a few safety signs, but everyone ignored them.


    One summer, I worked for a season on the construction team recasting the sea defence barriers and groynes in modern reinforced concrete. Often took a builder's lunch break in the cafe at the shore end, fried food and sweet tea. I celebrated my 19th birthday in the 'Pub on the Pier' with a handful of acquaintances; I had a self-conscious affection for the notion of a (fairly dreadful) pub that you had to pay a 20p toll before you could even enter. It was in the same pub a couple of years later, on a bright Saturday afternoon, I remember a specific moment of clarity; realising I really wasn't from this town any more, and perhaps the time had come to properly leave. The locals may of course think otherwise.


    A grab bag of other memories and images. Raves on the pier during the rave years. Storm waves breaking right over it. A nonsensical shop that only sold products made from garlic attempting a world record for the longest string of garlic. Oldest functional Galaxian machine in the town for many years.

    While I was gone it slipped into dereliction, after first bouncing between a couple of murky sounding new ownership schemes. There were organised efforts to reclaim it via compulsory purchase, that seemed to be getting somewhere. Then came fire, well timed, suspicious. And that seemed to be the story end. Another English seaside town with a wrecked and burned dead pier. I was too sad to visit the corpse.


    I still saw the news stories that started filtering through about fundraising campaigns, and charity organisation to rebuild it. This all seemed well-intentioned, and positive, but I thought probably doomed to failure, like so many of the town regeneration schemes and stories over the years. To my astonishment they did it. The "people's pier", of all things. Lots of people love it as much as I do, maybe more. Lottery funding was secured, and it reopened, a couple of years ago, in an entirely more modern and re-imagined form. They haven't just reached backward for the easy goal of nostalgia and austerity-years retro kitsch. A tiny visitor center clad with original reclaimed timbers, some beach hut styled pop ups, a viewing platform, and a modest restaurant. The lines from the promenade look fantastic, with the horizon line bisecting the old frames and rigging, from the new planes above. Once you're on it, it's all about the space, and those views; Hastings Old town to your right, Burton's St. Leonards sweeping back away to your left. It's a dramatic and beautiful new public space, more versatile than a traditional pier, but still aware of its past forms and history.

    And now this bolder approach has been rewarded with the prestigious RIBA Stirling prize for excellence in architecture. This is pretty astonishing news for Hastings. I feel weirdly proud. It's well worth a visit. The entire town has clearly had a bit of a lift. I've been enjoying the recent moves toward revitalisation of the English seaside town, and we've recently been quite seriously pricing up a move to the coast. I wonder how the Hastings house prices are doing. The locals know what's happening here.


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  5. I love making New Year's resolutions. I'm not sure I am good at them, but I enjoy the tradition. Every year, I tend to set at least a small handful. Sometimes they're entirely private, sometimes I publicise them. I don't know that they ever tend to be that successfully realised, but to me that's part of the system. I like to think there's much that is useful to learn from how I fail to achieve them, and maybe that's some part of the benefit. Sometimes I pull them off with aplomb, and that always feels pretty good.

    This year I set myself an extraordiary reading challenge. A couple of years ago, on some kind of whim, I think prompted by a positive review in either The Guardian, or Word Magazine (RIP), I purchased, and read Lives of the Novelists by John Sutherland. This is an engaging biographical chronology of the English novel. It covers 294 novelists of significance in historical sequence. The format is readable, there's a 3-4 page potted biography of each author, and then a short summary. So you end up with a sort of illuminated canon starting in the seventeeth century, and leading you up to the roughly present day. The author choices are not always obvious, but neither are they deliberately obscure, and the tone is light, cheeky and erudite, and it works as an entertainment just as much as a reference piece, I unreservedly recommend it.

    Part of the summary notes at the end of each chapter, suggests a Must Read Tome, for each writer. These themselves are not always the most obvious work, and carry a little paragraph of justification alongside the choice. So for 2017, in a fit of optimism, alongside a grab-bag of other self-improvement goals, I decreed I would attempt to read every MRT in sequence. Clearly this was an overreach going in. 294 books is approaching a novel a day, and I was unlikely to chew through all of them in the year, but I figured I could keep going with it and see how well I did.

    We've passed the halfway mark now, and I'm happy to report it's going awfully. I have managed four books. The most recent one is not even half-finshed. I guess I kind of suck at this. I think there are a couple of mistakes I made on the surface. One I have already skirted around - it's too big a target. Factor into that the fact that I have relatively little spare time for reading fiction, and I also decided to take on a pile of other resolutions that demand daily hobby time (I'm teaching myself a foreign language! Badly!) and it's even more daunting a target. One book a month would be quite a feat, if I'm honest.

    I think I might organised little potted reviews as I finish each book, to try and gee myself along a bit. Also, I made a resolution to do more blogging in 2017. That's right, does it show? Book reports seem like easy-reach fruit. Watch this space.

    Perhaps the most egregious error though, was to fix myself to the chronology. Whilst this means that I am starting out firmly in the lands of the copyright expired public domain, which makes legal book aquistion very economical, it also means that I've front-loaded the material with tough going books. We start out with challenging archaic language, and structure, and this makes an already sluggish project a little more slower going. I don't believe in changing the rules midstream, however, and I intend to persist.

    I thought I'd broken the back of the slightly-too-hard-to-read-comfortably years, when I got through to Defoe, but I hadn't taken into account another pitfall of the early romantic novel. Verbiage. After Defoe I get Samuel Richardson. And the MRT is Clarissa. That's nine fricking volumes of epistolary marriage plot. It might be the longest novel published in the English language. I've nearly finished book one, and it's taken me three months. I sincerely doubt I'll get through this bugger before 2018. It's fascinating, heady stuff though, I am enjoying it. Many tribulations, and archaic mores. A terrifying insight into the political lot of even the priviliged eighteenth century englishwomen. Also, much swoon.

    Could this be a ten year project? I'm not quitting.

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