Week notes: 11-17 December 2023

Don’t dream it be it, you don't “get” anyone to do anything, thinking by typing.

We meet again! I’m shaking up the format this week, with a chronological account written as I went along cos (spoiler alert) my folks are visiting this weekend.

Dear diary…

Sunday eve: a fun double feature 

After I posted last week’s note, my wife and I had about as much fun as you can have on the sofa with your clothes on and your teenage sons in the room after 20 years and 364 days of marriage, by watching these two films:

  • Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. This film has no business being as good as it is. Seriously, don’t overlook it. That goes extra if you have even a smidge of fondness for Hugh Grant. 
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This was starting on telly just as we were heading to bed, so we ended up re-watching it all. “Don’t dream it…” 👄

Jeremy weeknoted in class today and it’s an excellent bit of working out loud. He built on my reasons to weeknote and I’ve incorporated his additions back into the page – yay internet! 

Monday: our wedding anniversary 

I took the car in for a service (this is not a euphemism about the anniversary), forcing a nice early morning walk back to the house. Bought the Christmas bumper issue Radio Times en route, the frisson of which is in sharp decline but not completely gone.

Over coffee, I set about watching the recording of a Turing lecture on AI which I’d signed up for last week but was too busy to watch live. It’s great, and I’m taking notes as I go. Squeezed in 30 mins of that then jumped onto …

Reviewing proposals from a colleague for org-wide operating model changes that sit squarely in the “create the conditions for success” space I talk about on my about page. It was a lot to take in so I spent much of the day digesting and pondering that ahead of a chat later in the week. Will need to continue this on Wednesday.

Then a meeting to discuss our confidence in achieving minimal viable new TV apps for BFI Player by forecasted dates. Differing takes in the team, which made for a good crunchy discussion. I love meetings like this with smart colleagues all presenting evidence and logic, listening to each other well – a good example of a healthy culture. 

In the afternoon I rewrote a draft internal blog post announcing the new partnership I vague-blogged about previously (keeping vague for now).

We marked our 21 years of marriage with a cottage pie and the new episode of Catfish. Not as unromantic as it might sound, mirroring our wedding day when we ate McDonalds and watched Divorce Court in our hotel room. (Have I mentioned said ceremony was in Vegas, and how cool we therefore are? Well it was, and we are, very cool actually).

It was season 8, episode 88 of Catfish. Why do US TV shows pause for months and then carry on rather than start a new season? Ep 88!?! Baffling. Good episode though. 

Tuesday: staff party JOMO

On the bus to BFI’s Stephen Street HQ I watched this fab talk from Matt LeMay – you don’t “get” anyone to do anything. Inconveniently true.

A busy day of meetings:

  1. a one-to-one with Cat (director of all things digital)
  2. a briefing about some work we’re scoping through a philanthropy scheme, to introduce single sign-on for BFI services (currently our users need separate accounts for everything)
  3. a meeting about plans for multimedia editorial work
  4. a chat with an interim PA (my current person is moving on)
  5. our Executive board meeting
  6. a one-to-one with CEO Ben

It was the first in-person Exec board we’ve had for months, step one of us recommitting to them regularly. It was great – the discussion flowed so much more easily I was better able to pay attention and participate.

It’s the staff party tonight, taking over BFI Southbank. It looks like a really fun time for people for whom that kind of time is really fun (drinking, karaoke, dancing) and I’m pleased it’s happening, but it’s not for me.

It’s taken me a long time to get good at saying no to things like this without feeling guilty or like it’s a snub – which it’s not, I socialise and make myself visible and available in other ways (including this blog). Was hoping I’d see lots of people for ad hoc chats in the office, but it didn’t pan out that way. The day was just packed, to quote Calvin and Hobbes.

Back at home, my wife and I watched Who Killed Robert Wone, a gripping true crime two-parter on Sky. We binged both eps, and went to bed with heads full of theories and Reddit threads about BDSM gone wrong.

Wednesday: unfinished business 

I watched the rest of the Turing AI lecture (on 2x speed) and this short animation: What’s the Deal with Large Language Models? I made some edits on our draft internal gen-AI guidance, which is proving hard to get right (and keep moving, and agree, when everyone’s so busy). Lol at the idea that AI reduces workloads, eh?

A couple of meetings: the weekly committee to ratify grants to film and audience projects; and a catch-up with Paul who leads BFI Player. 

Resumed pondering my colleague’s org-wide operating model proposals. Feel like I’ve understood the intent, found the common ground, formulated some clear thoughts (by typing in a doc) and am ready to share constructive steers when we meet tomorrow. 

Typing in a doc is actually the only way I ever get to find out what I think. I’ve known that for years, but since hearing this podcast (thanks to Randeep) back in Feb, I now understand it to be aphantasia-adjacent. I had no idea most people have inner monologues chatting away to them all day. That’s insane. How can you all stand it? Glad not to have one – but its absence does mean I have to write to think (beyond a certain level of instinctive knowing). 

Which makes gen-AI all the more dystopian a prospect. Like Busta Rhymes says in this interview (which Lou shared in the team Slack):

“They gave us these devices and if you speak a certain way, the phone stores all the data and then it is thinking for you. Then when you are texting somebody, well, words pop up the way you spell it, so you ain’t gotta type it any more! The phone is taking your soul from you. The way you think. It is becoming you. That is some real weird shit when you think about it, right?”

Busta Rhymes 

In the evening, I watched the latest Doctor Who (The Giggle) so I am up to speed before the Christmas ep. I’m not a Whovian by any means, but when it’s good it’s great so I roll the dice occasionally, and I’m excited to see what magic Russell + Ncuti + the Disney cash creates. Loved Ncuti in his undies calling people “honey”. There was a preview of the Christmas Day ep at the BFI on Monday which I skipped, but the word from colleagues is: it’s a treat, honey. So circle that in your bumper Radio Times!

Thursday: half day

The prep paid off, and the discussion about operating model stuff went well.

Attended a board meeting for Heritage 2022, a 5-year programme of large-scale moving image preservation and access which is drawing to a close. It’s been a hugely successful programme. My team delivered a digital product for libraries called BFI Replay as part of it.

Took the afternoon as leave, to take Dylan to a Sixth Form admission interview and then parents’ evening to discuss his GCSE mocks and revision goals. 

Some links for your consideration:

Friday: meet the (grand)parents  

A flurry of Zooms today (Exec standup, BFI Player comms planning, an update on how we’re resourcing a comprehensive software review project, a one-to-one with Mark who leads on corporate technology). Plus various tying up of loose ends before I shut down on Tuesday eve.

As spoilered, my mum and dad arrived. They’re staying 2 nights with us, swapping gifts, telling the boys they’ve grown, pulling an early Christmas cracker and so forth. Lovely!

Our Friday night was fish and chips, random TV then Who Killed Jill Dando? which was the right pick for generation-spanning appeal. 

Here, have some more links:

Saturday: hanging out with my family

That subhead is an obscure reference to a song from the film Birdemic: Shock and Terror. If you haven’t seen that, put it on your list, filed under “so bad it’s good” (more bad and good than The Room). Pairs nicely with the How Did This Get Made podcast episode and this Collider piece. “Where’s Becky?” (if you know, you know).

Enjoyed a chilled day with my folks, including poking about Crystal Palace where they were caught out by the price of food market cheese. Joel and Dylan went shopping for things to put in my Christmas stocking – a new tradition since last year, which is lovely of them and a total delight for me!

We played Carcassonne, with the river expansion.

I cooked dinner (this staple from my modest repertoire), then mum and dad watched the Strictly Come Dancing final while I thumbed through that bumper Radio Times (which has proved to be a surprising through-line in this blog post) and noodled about on my phone. Hanging out, just hanging out. Hanging out with my family.

Sunday: parental units depart

Said toodles to the olds, visited my wife’s brother and his wife, their bump and toddler, ran 10K, polished and published this. 

Planning a lads-only rewatch of Attack the Block tonight while Joy is out. Dylan needs to revise it for his Film Studies GCSE, Joel hasn’t seen it, and it’s been years for me so I’m bang up for it too.


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