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Weekend read: Apocalyptic shopping malls

My recommended read for this weekend is really more of a recommended 'gawp' than something to read… but I like to do that sometimes.

It's a photo article from Slate, written by Jordan G Tiecher and feautring the photography of Seph Lawless. It features a number of arresting photographs of abandoned US shopping malls, taken from Seph's latest book. The photos that wonderful artistic haunting post-apocalyptic quality of urban exploration.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Photographer Seph Lawless had been traveling the country photographing a variety of “abandoned and broken” buildings for his book, Autopsy of America, when he came across two buildings from his past: Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio and Randall Park Mall in North Randall, Ohio. Growing up in nearby Cleveland, Lawless spent lots of…

This post was filed under: Google+ posts, Weekend Reads.

This is a great article from Daniel Cressey in Nature. I sometimes think there’s a lot of heat in the e-cigarette debate, but not a lot of light… this seems a pretty balanced look at the debate. Though it doesn’t touch much on the economic arguments for and against regulation, which is a bit of a shame.

In the haze of incomplete data, scientists are divided over the risks, and benefits of it..

This post was filed under: Google+ posts.

I see that many people are mocking Ryanair for their 'admission' that "Premium seats will be the same standard seats". Seems a bit of a cheap shot, considering that the same is true of EasyJet, BMI, BA domestic flights, and many others besides…!

Low-cost airline Ryanair is to offer a “business class” service on all of its flights as it tries to gain a bigger share of the European corporate travel market. Branded “Business Plus”, tickets start from €69.99 and allow unlimited flight changes,

This post was filed under: Google+ posts.

Weekend read: Death by PowerPoint

The people in this stock photo, like most people in stock photos, look happy. How many times in your life have you sat through a PowerPoint presentation – particularly one on an inadequately size TV – and been that happy? Not terribly often, I suspect.

And so my recommended read for this weekend is a wonderfully sweary post on Medium, written by Robin Hardwick. It’s a guide to writing a PowerPoint presentation that won’t cause people to want to commit suicide. Here’s a sample:

I don’t need a slide that says HOUSEKEEPING to tell me that I can get up and go to the bathroom whenever I need to. It’s not like I was going to stay in my seat at all costs and soil my drawers so I won’t miss a precious moment of your Screen Beans describing what teamwork means.

Well, quite. Writing as somebody whose heart sinks when PowerPoint is fired up, I’d say that this article shouldn’t just be a recommended read, it should be compulsory for everyone who might ever have to give a presentation. It’s excellent.

This post is sponsored by the printers of my own business cards, moo.com
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Weekend read: Top products in two decades of tech reviews

At the end of last year, Walter Mossberg retired from his technology review column in the Wall Street Journal. He closed the book on his column with this great article in which he picks the best the dozen products which he thinks changed the industry. There are, of course, hundreds of similar columns online which debate the most important products in consumer technology history, but Mossberg’s well-informed perspective is well worth considering.

I’m linking to the AllThingsD version of the article, as the WSJ’s main site requires registration.

This post is sponsored by 123-reg.co.uk

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I’ve been blogging for 11 flipping years. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.

A week or so ago, Jessica Hagy wrote “I’ve been blogging for 8 freaking years. Here’s what I learned as I went along.” on Medium. Jessica’s post didn’t quite match my experience, but it inspired me to put down some of my own thoughts on the same topic.

Don’t just put your stuff out there.
Whatever you write, someone will like it… but if that someone isn’t you, then what’s the point? Over the course of 11 years of blogging, there’s more that I regret writing than I regret not writing. Learn from my mistake. Take time to consider what you write. Re-read it. Let it marinate. And when it’s really ready, put it online – cognisant of the fact that it will always be there. And, yes, this is coming from the bloke who wrote a book called Instant Opinion. Sorry about that.

There are people out there who won’t GET you.
There’s a subset of the population who will instinctively dislike your writing, much as there’s a subset of the population who will instinctively dislike your face. Then there’s a bigger subset of the population who will instinctively dislike the fact that you blog. Try not to be put off – but if you can’t handle unfair and unfounded criticism, blogging isn’t going to be your game.

People won’t steal everything you do.
But they will “steal” a lot of it. C’est la vie. They can’t steal the pleasure of writing it. Blog because you enjoy writing, don’t blog to be read.

Be afraid of your own voice.
Most bloggers seem to have a voice that’s slightly snide, prone to inside jokes, and which slips into shorthand and acronyms that nobody beyond their own circle of friends will understand. When I look back at my early writing, this is what makes me cringe the most. Moderate yourself. Take time to consider how best to express your ideas in terms that can be easily understood.


Creative habits can be unhealthy.
An excess of boundless creativity can turn a respectable blog into an incoherent mess, probably with flashing GIFs and clashing fonts. Channel your creativity. And, most of all, don’t let your creative voice out-shout your critical faculties. Critical thinking that brings new ideas and perspectives is the lifeblood of a good blog.

It matters if you know that nobody reads it.
The best blogs are exercises in writing, not exercises in being read. It’s easy in the early days to get hung up on hit counts and comments. Resist. Try turning comments off for a while and not checking the stats. Don’t end every post with a question in the hope someone will answer. Don’t over-analyse what you’re doing and try to generate more hits. Write because you have something to say.

The tools change, and so do the actions.
There are people who try to use the same style and content on every platform. How many RTs and @replies have you seen on Facebook from people who try to cross-post? How many “1/6” on the end of Tweets from people who can’t keep within the character limit? Don’t be that guy. Get to know whatever tool you’re using, and tune your use of it. To play the best music, a musician must master their instrument. Fail to master the instrument, and even the best music will sound bad.

You don’t have time to make things.
Nobody has time to do anything except what they already do. If you want to start doing something new, you need to find time for it. It’s no good doing some mental calculation and thinking “I have time”. You have to make time, and that will mean making sacrifices along the way.

The vast majority of people don’t make content, they just pass on a tiny amount of what’s already out there.
By any reasonable measure, there’s already enough stuff on the internet. Your addition is infinitesimally small, and, no matter how much effort you put in, the fraction of the internet that’s yours will continue to tend to zero throughout your blogging life. Blog because you enjoy writing. Blog because you want to organise your thoughts. Don’t blog because you think your opinion is important, don’t blog because someone told you too, and – most of all – don’t blog because you want to be read.

Most people are idiots.
The internet is less than 0.0005% perverts and haters. But a substantial proportion of the other 99.9995% are people who don’t engage with debate, who don’t read past the first paragraph, and who would rather gawp at a series of photos of celebrities than read your passionate argument about something that’s important to you. Don’t blog because you want to be read.

A tiny bit of success can be the most frustrating thing of all.
By far the most popular thing I ever posted on my blog was a video I made of Gordon Brown picking his nose in the House of Commons. It even made it on to Newsnight. It was silly, not representative of me or what I do, and it took about five minutes to put together.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
I think blogging is great fun – but it’s fun because I enjoy writing. Before the internet came along, I used to write ‘newsletters’ on a manual typewriter that no-one would ever read. If no-one ever reads my blog, I haven’t lost anything. So, if there’s a post or two that I’m not completely happy to share, I don’t. Some of them I abandon altogether. Others I tinker with. I’ve one post that I’ve been tinkering with on an almost monthly basis for more than four years. Although, since every word has probably changed multiple times, perhaps a philosopher might say it’s not the same post at all. If I’d published it all that time ago, I’d have missed out on hours of enjoyable tinkering. Take time to consider what you write. Don’t blog to be read.

A verison of this post also appears on Medium.

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This post was filed under: Blogging.

Weekend read: The five best punctuation marks in literature

Kathryn Schultz has put together a wonderfully absurd listicle for Vulture in which she argues with passion for the five best punctuation marks in literature. This is a great article in itself, but is made all the better for being one of the few punctuation-related articles on the internet that doesn’t tediously rehearse the merits of either the semicolon or the interrobang.

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Weekend read: Goodbye Ctrl-S

Back in May, Jeff Jarvis wrote a brilliant reflective piece for Medium about the changing journalism workflows associated with changing technology. His compulsion to Ctrl-S is something that I share, and that I still do even though it is not longer necessary now that I use a Chromebook as my main machine.

Interestingly, one of the biggest changes that Chromebooks have had on my personal working patterns has come from the inclusion of a “search” button in place of the Caps Lock key. I cannot count the number of times I’ve hit Caps Lock on a work PC and typed search terms directly into whatever document I’m working on instead of finding the answers I’m seeking!

This post is sponsored by my webhost, one.com

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