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Door hangers

There seems to be a trend for these to have more and more words on them. Someone must have determined that door hangers are a ‘brand touchpoint’ or some such nonsense.

Keeping them as simple as possible would make them maximally functional. Sacrificing function for ‘brand personality’ is probably not the best decision.

This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel.


This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, .

I’ve been reading ‘Writing for Busy Readers’ by Todd Rogers and Jessica Lasky-Fink

This book seems to have had a digital release in September, but isn’t coming out in physical form in the UK until 2024. It’s therefore the first book I’ve read in ages which I’ve read purely digitally. I bought it after the book was referenced in this Johnson column in The Economist.

It’s a short book largely based on behavioural science about how to write clearly and concisely. At work, one of my pet peeves is poorly written corporate communications. I get quite riled when people send mass emails which I can’t understand, frequently with calls to action that are bafflingly unclear. You wouldn’t know it from my rambling on here, but in professional life, I spend a lot of time refining things I write to make them as precise, concise and clear as possible.

As a result, I spent most of this book nodding along. I don’t think I picked up anything new from it, but I appreciated how to authors compiled sage advice into this short, actionable format. It should be required reading for anyone drafting any sort of corporate communication… and many of the principles are applicable in personal life as well.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, What I've Been Reading, , , .


This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, .

I’ve seen ‘The Great Escaper’

This film, starring Michael Caine and the late Glenda Jackson, is one that I’d never have gone to see if it weren’t for my current project.

Due to a combination of my age and my complete lack of cinema knowledge, Glenda Jackson was mostly an MP to me, and it was a bit of a shock to see her acting in a film. She was, of course, a much-acclaimed and quite brilliant actor, so it didn’t take me too long to get over that.

This is a film which dramatises Bernard Jordan’s ‘escape’ from a care home in 2014, to attend the commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landings in France. Having seen the trailer before I saw the film, I had thought that this might be a gentle comedic film, and was slightly reticent about seeking it as a result. I didn’t really want to see something that made light of the terrible horror of war.

I was wrong to be sceptical. This isn’t a comedy caper, it’s a thoughtful and profoundly sad film about the long-lasting impact of the trauma of fighting in a war. It’s lightened by the reflection on a seventy-year love story. It explores the dynamic of a couple which has been together for so long: something that’s rarely analysed on screen. Jackson and Caine were both excellent, though I felt Jackson was the more commanding screen presence. I think I’d have given Danielle Vitalis equal billing too: she provided an important emotional core for the film, and matched Jackson’s power in their scenes together.

It was an understated, moving and beautifully acted film. I think there was room for a little more reflection of the moral complexity of the whole piece, but maybe there was a conscious decision to keep it simple so as not to crowd out the central themes.

This is worth 90 minutes of your time.

This post was filed under: Film, Post-a-day 2023, , , .

Someone else’s thoughts on artificial intelligence

Last week, I reflected that I’d underestimated the potential of large language models by basing my opinion on the early versions of ChatGPT. Interestingly, Casey Newton has talked in the latest edition of Platformer about making the same mistake.

I had recently subscribed to ChatGPT Plus at the encouragement of a friend who had found it to be an excellent tutor in biology. A few days later, I found myself embarrassed: what I thought I knew about the state of the art had essentially been frozen a year ago when ChatGPT was first released. Only by using the updated model did I see how much better it performed at tasks involving reasoning and explanation.

I told the researcher I was surprised by how quickly my knowledge had gone out of date. Now that I had the more powerful model, the disruptive potential of large language models seemed much more tangible to me. 

The researcher nodded. “You can fast forward through time by spending money,” she said.

Naturally, Casey’s thoughts are more extensive and more fully formed than my own, and the whole piece is well worth reading.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, Technology, , , .

I’ve been reading ‘The Young Man’ by Annie Ernaux

I read the 2023 translation by Alison L Strayer of Ernaux’s 2022 autobiographical essay. It is not long: the Fitzcarraldo Editions version extends to 26 pages of very large print text.

The essay covers Ernaux’s relationship with a student thirty years her junior, which occurred around the millennium when Ernaux was in her fifties. It felt honest and thoughtful, with the plain and quite direct style of writing that I remember from reading Simple Pleasures a couple of years ago.

My overriding feeling was a sort of envy at Ernaux’s self-awareness and capacity for self-analysis, even if not for the choices she makes in her life. I think I’d enjoy reading more of her work.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, What I've Been Reading, , .


David Pierce recently wrote about how Apple’s EarPods are perfect for phone calls and video calls. I ended up spending £19 on USB-C EarPods based on that recommendation, and I was really impressed.

Previously, I’ve used work-supplied expensive wireless headsets when sitting on endless Microsoft Teams calls, but the sound and microphone quality of these cheap wired buds is markedly better. The reliability of a wired connection provides greater assurance. I also like that I can hear the world around me while I use them. I don’t miss the fact that they’re not wireless at all.

I liked them so much, that I ended up buying a second pair to leave at work.

Sometimes, the cheap option is surprisingly good.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, Technology, , .


This post was filed under: Art, Post-a-day 2023, , , .

Communication signifies dysfunction

The better part of a decade ago, I read Brad Stone’s account of the history of Amazon, The Everything Store. I highlighted this passage, and Readwise has just served it back to me:

Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way. We should be trying to figure out a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more.

Reading this brought back a vivid memory of walking to work along London’s South Bank and contemplating this idea. It struck me as completely misguided: close joint working seemed involve frequent, easy communication.

Re-reading it today, I understand it completely and have gained an insight into why I previously struggled with it.

These days, some areas of my work are characterised by close, organic working relationships. Each of the teams involved understands their role and that of others. Communication between the teams is relatively frequent and easy, but also specific and targeted. The parts of the team that need to communicate to move the process along do so, like a well-oiled machine. And each part of each team has a well-honed sense of when to ‘shout’, expanding the circle of communication and raising a concern that different teams need to come together to solve.

A decade ago, nearly every area of my work was like that: my frame of reference for ‘communication’ wasn’t wide enough to understand what Stone was getting at. My focus was on improving the accuracy and quality of the communications, not on reducing the overall quantity.

These days, a much larger proportion of my working week is taken up by meetings where people talk about their areas of work in the hope that someone else on the call might be doing something similar or adjacent. My email inbox is filled with ‘newsletters’ with a similar intent. This is the opposite of working in a close, organic way. This is ‘communication’ that ought to be engineered out: an organisation in which this sort of communication doesn’t need to occur would be a much more functional entity. A decade ago, I simply didn’t know that this sort of unproductive communication existed, let alone that organisation often actively promoted it.

It turns out that communication is indeed a sign of dysfunction.

The image at the top of this post was generated by Midjourney.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, .

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