Month notes: October 2023

LFF, rollercoasters, board games and big beacons.

Autumn is the absolute best. The conkers. The crunchy leaves. The colours. The crisp sunny days (storm Babet aside). Sunglasses and a scarf with no brolly, that’s the ultimate. 

I’ve been making the most of the days before the dirt ‘desire path’ around my local recreation ground (pictured above) – a legacy from lockdowns, which I love – regains its muddy puddles and forces me back to the boring pavement for my walks and runs. 

At work, my attention has been on helping my teams get focus and momentum with OKRs. It’s early days, with the teams at different stages, but people are finding the clarity helpful. Thanks to Matt LeMay’s talk at the Mind The Product leadership forum (which Cat went to) I’m newly aware of NCTs as an alternative to OKRs. They sound interesting, but I’m yet to have a proper read and ponder. 

I held check-ins with all work areas as Q2 gave way to Q3, and again in late October (already a third of the way through Q3, with Christmas looming). I’m trying to embrace this concept of ‘how little” and encourage a realistic scope of work, while also nurturing everyone’s enthusiasm and pushing for progress. It’s a balance – we’re getting a better feel for how much we can get done. 

We just had a brilliant all-directorate show and tell (Digital Donut Time, named after the BFI all-hands Donut Time) showcasing a mindblowing breadth of work and depth of expertise. We are doing some exciting stuff this quarter, including vision work on what a digital-first overhaul of BFI’s cinema listings and booking journey could achieve, absent of the constraints of current systems and production processes. 

I had a catch up with Amanda Spencer. Lots of common ground on managing expectations of rapid delivery, products vs projects, measuring ROI for work that intrinsically enables others’ goals, and helping people understand that the change they want also means changing how they do things. Always helpful to compare notes.

I drafted a foreword for the new edition of Content Design and I’m pleased with it. When the book’s out and if Sarah doesn’t mind I might re-post it here. It really helped having a chat with Jem (BFI’s content design wiz) so thanks to him. 

This deck from Lou “good services” Downe – in particular slides 99-109 and 167 – is pure gold. Flick through them all, if only for the lesson in doing presentations

People (especially Dave and Matt) have been lovely about my return to blogging. It’s encouraging – I will keep at it!

I’ve added a now page, and you can now sign up for emails below each post or page. 👇

My October has been jam-packed, and each of these next bullets could have been a post of their own (perhaps would have been, had this blog been up and running already). 

  • London Film Festival. I have the total privilege of seeing (with a +1) my pick of the gala screenings while on hosting duty for political, funder and industry guests. I saw some incredible films and caught up with guests of my own (Ben Welby, Nettie Williams, Dave Rogers). LFF is wonderful, exhausting, and logistically challenging kids-wise with late nights for 12 days across 2 weekends. I had a great time. Scroll down for my brief take on the films I saw.

“Keep your head back and hold on tight”

Jigsaw
  • In the middle of LFF we also went to Thorpe Park. I love rollercoasters but hadn’t been here for years. Stealth remains the GOAT. Two coasters were new to me: The Swarm and SAW – The Ride. Swarm manages to be both smooth and intense, and the theming is on point. SAW is unpleasantly rough, much like The Smiler at Alton Towers by the same people. Hilariously, in the ride station, the voice of Jigsaw delivers menacing threats but also safety messages. He’s such a complex character! I’m grateful to my wife and kids for indulging me, it’s not their thing at all (as you can see below!)
  • Board games weekend in Nottingham. Once or twice a year I go up to see old uni friends and we play the kind of board games that take almost as long to set up as to play. The star of the show was Nemesis, which goes to amusing lengths to replicate Alien without infringing copyright (they’re not xenomorphs, they’re “intruders”). 
  • Halloween weekend at Chesil Beach holiday park. We stayed here 8ish years ago and fondly remember a so-good-it’s-bad Madonna impersonator as part of the ents. It’s gone less cheesy now with polished but mediocre bands doing popular covers, but we still enjoyed revisiting the static home experience, jailhouse cafe and Portland Bill lighthouse. Noisy rainstorms against flimsy walls made for amazing chrysalism.

Reading

Big Beacon by Alan Partridge. The Gibsons-era Partridge voice works best of all in book form I reckon. But there is a heavy irony in my reading this while 

Me, in front of Portland Bill lighthouse, with my arms in the air
A big beacon
  1. rebooting my personal blog, which is an accidental Partridge high wire act as it is
  2. staying in a static home (with a banquette)
  3. visiting an actual lighthouse

Listening

This Goldie and Doc Scott Metalheadz 30 ICONS mix on Mary Anne Hobbs was excellent. Catch it on BBC Sounds before it disappears. 

More Partridge: We finished From the Oasthouse Series 2 and listened to Steve Coogan on Off Menu with James Acaster and Ed Gamble during the drive to Dorset and back. I’m with Steve – bring back white pepper!

I’ve been eyeing them up for ages and am now the happy owner of some Pixel Buds Pro. The active noise cancelling and transparency options are impressive. Conversation detection is also cool – I just start talking and they pause what’s playing. They fall out when I run so I’ll still need my Mpows with the hooks. I’m going all in with Pixel now – got the phone, got the buds, asking Santa for the Watch 2. 

Watching

The Beckham doc was perfect TV. We’re loving the current Taskmaster line-up. I binge-watched Maxine because there’s something wrong with me. 

I’ll cut to the chase on LFF: Poor Things and The Zone of Interest are exceptional landmarks of filmmaking by directors at the top of their game. Just breathtaking.

I’d group this selection of brilliant films just below those: Killers of the Flower Moon, Priscilla, May December, Hit Man. They completely achieved what they set out to do, and are must-sees.

Then this bunch of solid 4 star movies which I also loved: Starve Acre, The Holdovers, The Killer, The Animal Kingdom.

A few didn’t do it for me but had good things about them: The Book of Clarence, Chicken Run Dawn of the Nugget, The Kitchen and The End We Start From.

I also saw Saltburn.

Outside of LFF: Distant Voices, Still Lives (RIP Terence Davies), Typist Artist Pirate King, SCALA!!!, Five Nights at Freddy’s, The Cabin in the Woods, Fair Play. I’d seen Cabin before but clean forgot it, which is alarming (and further SDAM evidence) because it’s right up my meta horror street.

Distractions

The kids made these two deranged, ironically bad Scratch games at half term:

Uncanny AI generated video art (via Stephen McConachie)

Sinister AI Rewind Pendant

Standups too long? Try plank hold meetings (volume down first)

Bye!

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4 Comments

Dave Aspindle October 31, 2023 Reply

Wow. I don’t know how you found the time to fit all that in…great stuff I can’t wait to see Novembers exploits as we head towards earlier dark nights and the obligatory Xmas adverts after bonfire night…

I’m going to give the “good services”
deck a deeper look. Coming from a traditional old school software dev and ops world, I still struggle melding Agile with ITIL. It works but not everyone gets it! Hopefully there might be additional nuggets within…

As a Blackpudlian who stood up on the Big Dipper at 8yrs old, I’m also a lover of roller coasters. You need to go north and see Blackpool pleasure beach and Alton Towers.

I was not so enamoured with the Beckham doc as it seems to suggest he (and Victoria) is a victim despite his actions and drive to succeed. I don’t dispute the vitriol and other reactions he received, but underneath he knew he’d created the monster that attracted the attention. I have sympathy but he set out to create his brand in the first place. Ask yourself what was the objective of the doc?

Thanks for the posts Neil. I’ve signed up to continue to receive as I have done with Dave B.

neillyneil@gmail.com November 3, 2023 Reply

Thanks so much for commenting – yours is the first comment on this new blog! And thanks for subscribing too. Agree re the Beckham doc’s angle and stance, but enjoyed it none the less. Always approach these authorised docs with skepticism.

Littlepixel November 1, 2023 Reply

Am enjoying your new blog (was linked to via NoisyDecentGraphics).
Watched ‘Theater Camp on your recommend – lot’s of fun and like a ‘The Bear’ reuinion.

One teeny request – possible to pre-warn of any TikTok links as I’m sure many of us are doing our best to avoid it (probably same for Twitter/X/TwiX these days too)

neillyneil@gmail.com November 3, 2023 Reply

Thanks so much for reading, and thanks for letting me know Ben (noisydecentgraphics) had posted about my blog, which I hadn’t spotted. Glad you enjoyed Theater Camp.

Good shout on the links, will fix retrospectively and do that from now on

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