Week notes: 22 -28 January 2024

Swanky do, glimpses of design sprint brilliance, a page per thing.

It’s a cold sunny Saturday as I start to write this. I’m back in Michael’s caff (not cafe) near the BRIT School, with marmite on white toast and a coffee I had to insist they don’t put sugar in. Enjoying the routine after last week’s Govcamp

Our Sunday board games sesh with Ben and Randeep had to be postponed so I’m having a quieter weekend than planned. Somewhere in South London, a Tesco van is bringing my ingredients for a baked ziti I don’t now know when I’ll make (but am looking forward to!)

Highlights of my week

Banish again

I could dedicate a whole post to that finale of The Traitors. I LOVED the outcome and four final cast members. Such perfect telly. 

All meetings would be improved by Claudia Winkleman doing slow laps of the room then announcing “the time for talk is over”. Like a time timer but with fingerless gloves.

Swanky do

The focal point of my work week was a dinner between the Uggla Family Foundation and BFI leadership to celebrate our partnership

Focal both because I was anxious in the run-up and because it went brilliantly well – which ought to be predictable based on prior experience of such things but try telling my subconscious that. 

They took us for dinner at Oswald’s. That’s a private family taking us to a private member’s club, so I won’t overshare. The food was incredible, the company fascinating, the bonding invaluable, and I had a chat I needed to inform the design of BFI’s digital transformation advisory board. 

Glimpses of brilliance

Back at base, there’s cool stuff happening I’m proud to have helped set in motion, and now I get to watch my deputies and their teams crushing it. All week I kept getting these glimpses of high-performing multidisciplinary team brilliance that made my heart sing. 

In particular, some of the team spent this week doing a design sprint (a first for the BFI and most of the people involved) which appears to have been nothing short of exemplary in every aspect, moving us forward in our mission to design a user-centred service for exploring and booking shows in the BFI’s kaleidoscopic, taste-expanding multi-screen cinema programme.

Other brilliance included an excellent internal blog post from Oliver and co (not this Oliver & co), progress on Player, and a major M365 milestone (the beginning of the end of the beginning of our IT modernisation).

Slivers of productivity 

My own time was split across many moving parts. I enlisted delivery management help with forming the digital advisory board, collated a cybersecurity update for DCMS, pushed for more joined up comms on change, joined a workshop on the future of the archive, shared some product steers with Margo, fed back formally on governance proposals, and talked logos and brand with wise folks in marketing. 

So I’m not just crowing about good stuff, there are things going less well too, highlighting blind spots where I need to lead and manage things better. 

An inspiring 45 mins

I had an overdue coffee with Paul Rissen, formerly of BBC and Reach. He’s got great ideas and unscratched itches to do something cool at the intersection of stories, metadata and emerging tech – for instance, exploring the potential for structured data to drive innovation in writers’ rooms. 

A writer I know talks similarly about how humans won’t be able to hold in their heads all the permutations of story needed for a truly interactive, immersive experience at the ultimate intersection of gaming and cinema. There’s a thing for tech to do here. It’d be fun to do it.

Hearing about Paul’s old BBC-slash-programmes work reminded me of Paul Downey’s vision when we worked together, for a permanently addressable page-per-thing on GOV.UK (think: car, property, company, lamppost) – and it’s not a million miles from the canonical films, TV and people pages we’re nudging along (when we can) at the BFI.

There’s scope to develop this thinking, and pitch for investment. Maybe. 

Domestic minutiae

I cooked fennel for the first time in my life (a new year’s resolution to break free of my online grocery algorithm). Honestly – roast fennel with balsamic vinegar, where has this been all my life??!

Our boiling water tap is busted. First world problems, but I instantly miss the instant boiling water and will have to tap up a plumber to supply and fit a new one. 

Getting a first bank account for my 16yo has cost me 6+ hours in customer support hell, and counting. HSBC has no process for the unhappy path of a new account holder’s debit card being lost in the post.

Blogging about blogging

Some other folks’ formats I admire: 

I got this comment on last week’s post which, though clearly spam, I feel seen by:

“I loved even more than you will get done right here. The overall look is nice, and the writing is stylish, but there’s something off about the way you write that makes me think that you should be careful what you say next. I will definitely be back again and again if you protect this hike.”

🔎 Found, interesting 🧐

Grab one of these BlueSky codes and join us in the non-Twitter place to be

Dave’s video on prioritisation and demand triage is simple, sensible and clear

Giles’s corporate training needs content design post is correct

You know what else needs content design? LLMs. Ben Holliday is bang on:

“Now is definitely the time to think more about content strategy and design as a multiplier for digital transformation. Investing strategically in content is going to be important to shaping the future impact of LLMs and generative AI.”

Ben Holliday

Speaking of which, a new edition of Content Design is imminent. I hear the new foreword is a work of genius. 

Tom Ebeyer who runs aphantasia.com wrote an excellent thing here about how Chat GPT’s response is the same as an aphantastic person’s:

ChatGPT: “As an artificial intelligence, I don’t have the ability to visualise or imagine in the way humans do. I don’t have the ability to form mental images. So, when you ask me to think of a horse, I don’t actually conjure up an image of a horse. Instead, I access my training, which includes information about horses, their characteristics, behaviours, and the context in which horses are typically mentioned”.

You and me both, mate!

Sticking with quirks of the brain, Cat told me about the anterior cingulate cortex, effectively the brain’s willpower muscle. It grows when you do things you don’t like, shrinks if you avoid them, and Joseph “catch-22” Heller and Alanis “ironic” Morissette would probably love that but I do not.

Jakob’s law (via Anna S)

Watched, played, read, listened and enjoyed

📽️ On the big screen: Aguirre, Wrath of God at the BFI Southbank. Adam Maddison joined as my +1 and it was so nice to catch up and hear about his coaching business and work with Public Digital, then descend into madness with Klaus and Werner. La la la la la.

▶ On the streamers: 

  • Society of the Snow – brutal, harrowing, brilliant, 30 mins too long, different from Alive (which made a big impression on me in its day). 
  • Pee Wee’s Big Holiday – nowhere near as good as Adventure but has excellent moments, like Joe Manganiello sulking at his birthday party.
  • 11 Minutes – on BFI Player, Jerzy Skolimowski. Intriguing premise, well-made, cranks up the tension, but the withholding intrinsic to the idea is annoying. Imagine Memento crossed with every Final Destination movie. 

🕮 Ted Chiang anthology update: I finished Division by Zero (I am not clever enough) and started Seventy-Two Letters. Books are alright but I just wanna go on my phone [TikTok].

📺 On the telly: The Traitors and new WILTY

🎧 In my ears: The Smile, Wall of Eyes


James Blunt museum

Cat (who has a westcountry upbringing in common with me) randomly mentioned Flambards. The 1990s advert jingle instantly played in my head:

“♫ Flambards triple theme park is a wonderful show. A day to remember, so be sure to go ♪”

Three from Web Curios: 

Thanks for reading. The time for talk is over. 

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