Feels like January alright. Brain fog ✅, freezing temperatures ✅, healthy food ✅ and a fast on-ramp to deliver all the things planned for Q4 ✅.

It took me a few days to shake off my post-Christmas doziness but I’m ending the week happy and elated. 2024 let’s go!

Highlights of my week

Joel turned 13, which means I no longer parent pre-teens. Happy-sad about that. We did gifts and his favourite meal, and he’s having IRL pizza and video games with 4 friends today. Lovely!

What better start to my working year than Jay Hunt being announced as our new Chair. As a governor she’s given me digitally-savvy steers and been a vocal champion of my teams’ work. More broadly she’s fiercely intelligent, energetic and inspiring, with an incredible gift for eliciting the best from people (I’m always immediately on my A-game in her presence). I couldn’t be happier. Fun times ahead!

I’m in a good, transitional phase at work myself. Things are pretty well set up for delivery now, having appointed three new Director positions under me to steer our digital strategy goals (SVOD, digital services and IT) plus 6 Heads of specialist job families. It means I’m out of the details more, looking outwards and turning my attention to blind spots where I know less about BFI’s systems and services; and spending more time in my other team, the BFI Exec. I have some figuring out to do on how best to be plugged into the delivery and give steers without directing it myself, and get reporting flows into a steady routine.

My two year work anniversary is coming up on 7th Feb. I feel pretty good about where we’ve got to in that time (building on all the great work done before I rocked up). Having checked over the departments’ Q4 objectives this week, they are intense and immense – we’ll be significantly stepping up our visible impact inside and outside the org this year, and seeing the groundwork bear fruit. Some of the in-progress delivery I saw this week has got me dead excited. 

Meanwhile, the BFI’s Scala season continues to be utterly wonderful – a great example of why I love the BFI and what it’s all about. On top of mine and Joy’s transgressive adult viewing last week, we went as a whole family this week to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure which is SO MUCH FUN. 

I’d never really known what Pee Wee was, other than loving Paul Reubens as Prince Gerhardt in 30 Rock (less so now as an anti-ableist ally). Pee Wee was filed somewhere in my brain alongside other American cultural references that didn’t mean much in the UK like The Brady Bunch, twinkies, pinkeye and hall monitors. But I’ve been missing out! He’s an icon of non-conformity and queer rebellion, and Paul Reubens’ comic talent was phenomenal. I am a total convert – heh heh!

Animated gif of Pee Wee dancing on the bar of a biker dive bar in Texas

I had a long overdue catchup with Chris Condron, formerly of BBC now of UAL. We’re a lot alike (I like to think) in terms of subversive leanings and straight talking (more Roman than Kendall Roy in the boardroom), and a similar approach to leading digital teams. Chris is better and funnier than me, though. Sorry, team!

We covered lots of common ground on the importance of getting the basics right, resisting the distraction of AI hype (Chris has my mate Ben Terrett on his board who needs no convincing!), and we swapped some useful contacts. I really liked some stuff he said about the choice between bimodal IT and digital teams where you launch a lot of shiny digital stuff quickly but it’s not integrated, versus a joined-up single department that delivers deeper and more sustainable change, but more slowly. We’re both plumping for the second, mostly – while releasing value early and often. We’re also both in our jobs cos of CEOs who get it and listen.

I’m actively planning to do more networking chats so do get in touch if you want a coffee. In particular (on top of maintaining my central and local gov network) I could do with cultivating relationships with digital and tech leaders in the arts and culture, museums and galleries, charities, and entertainment media space. No vendors or recruiters, thanks. 

What else? 

  • I remembered the scrapbook aspect of this blog and posted (pasted?) some stuff that caught my attention during the week
  • I said goodbye to my current assistant and began working with someone new (so far, so great). I’m taking the opportunity to introduce a rota of guest MCs for our all-hands show and tell
  • I sent pointers to a former boss (who I have a lot of respect for) in the Cronx, for her adult son who’s making a career switch into UI/UX work. 
  • I continued to get closer to the systems (and thereby the service design) in our fundraising and grantmaking teams, with a product demo from Blackbaud (following the intro relationship meeting in Dec)
  • With my new Pixel Watch 2, I’ve started using the Fitbit app to do food tracking. It’s a useful bit of mindfulness and health gamification. (Nonetheless, I joined in with too much birthday Dominos today).
  • I’m toying with iterating the name of this blog, it’s a bit bland. Nearly Neil? Hmm. Ideas on a postcard.

Found, interesting 🔎🤔

A little song and dance. That is, if you can sing and dance.

Purple Rain the Broadway show. One of my favourite films of all time, but it dates poorly on attitudes to women so will need updating. Dunno how to feel about it being messed with, given Prince’s notoriety for creative control. 

See Giles’s shoebox – it’s fun, and a good idea.

Oh shit banners …leading to confirmshaming (I’m pleased to learn the name for this dark pattern).

Practising Max – what an excellent post from Steph…leading to zero drama leadership. Max sounds ace.

My old colleague Dai Vaughan writes brilliantly here on the repeating patterns of failure inherent in the Horizon IT scandal that we see time and again – tech, design, understanding of tech from people in power, culture. A must read.

(Via Dave) the New Yorker on the BL cyber attack.

Carl Haggerty on rediscovering connections with Sarah Lay who aims to have 100 conversations. Just a nice bit of indie/personal web loveliness. 

Where have all the websites gone?

I’ll read it

Pleased to see Ann Kempster has joined the personal blog party! (When are YOU joining?)

Russell’s newsletter is great, and short. I liked his “I would prefer not to” and the bit about the one woman involved in the design of the trusty UK electric plug. Also time is not money.

2 crackers from Catherine Howe: so long Twitter and fantasy system.

I’m a sucker for a well-designed, singular gadget (hence owning a Remarkable and Playdate) so this Rabbit AI device caught my eye. But it feels premature and what user needs is it meeting, really? I’m a long way from trusting AI to write a decent paragraph without lots of input and attention – let alone tasking it to buy stuff or book holidays. But maybe this observation will become quaint sooner than I expect. 

Congrats to TPX Impact on becoming a B corp 

Film bits: VFX demo of army replication in Napoleon and anatomy of a scene with Chris  Nolan

Part of me is happy but another is sad London won’t get a Sphere

Mux has a very nice website

Media consumption

Film

Pee Wee Hermann’s Big Adventure in NFT1 as part of the BFI’s Scala season was SO DAMNED JOYFUL as mentioned above.

I had a fun time watching No Hard Feelings on my sofa. It’s serviceable at best, but has more heart and less smut than I expected, some stuff to say about Gen Z’s different attitudes to sex, and J-Law is always great to watch (this role is like a hugely simplified version of her character in Silver Linings Playbook). Broderick does a fun turn too. 

Revisited Looper, continuing our sci-fi viewing with the kids. Way better than I (barely) remember from the first watch. 

TV 

The Traitors, but only the first two episodes (we’ve had few nights in together) so avoiding spoilers. It’s so well-tooled and addictive. We skip the Outward Bound style games (anything eventful will come up later in discussion anyway) so hopefully we’ll catch up with the broadcasts soon enough!

Some of Mr Bates vs the PO. I’m reasonably familiar with the Horizon IT scandal but feel like I need to see this as it’s right at the intersection of public sector digital and the power of screen stories to create empathy and make change happen. 

Books

I read another story from Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others. Glad I didn’t let the first one (Tower of Babylon) put me off because the second (Understand) is mind-blowing, every bit as brilliant as Story of Your Life (which I read first, out of order, cos Arrival). Understand is unfilmable I reckon, which is a shame.

Music

I loved Loved by Four Tet. 

It’s So Good by Jamie xx is so good.

Distractions

Badadan translated [Reddit]

Ring ring ring [YouTube]

Horse outside [YouTube]

Thanks as ever for reading my nonsense. Byee!

Get an occasional email reminding you this blog exists: