2023 Wrapped

Wrapped culture has lost the plot but never one to miss a fad here’s my round up of 2023.

Life

2023 saw me hit a couple of milestones. I turned 50 which still feels a bit surreal that I am THAT old. A couple of days after I paid off the mortgage. Boom. Something that I had planned and aggressively targeted five years ago landed, made more memorable by the bank employee who seemed happier than me as he declared you’re mortgage free. Brilliant.

Work also saw a significant change as I stepped into a director role and I’m now responsible for a team of not 15 but 150. First couple of months saw a few changes that have landed ok but lots more to do in 2024. Enjoying the challenge so far but also need to look after myself – more on that below.

Health

Fitness wise I had an ok year. Kept the previous target of walking 2000km in a year and managed a bit more, clocking in at just over 2300km. Pace also better than the previous year.

Yearly total of walks

There are two points to the walks – to keep weight in control and also to get out from behind a keyboard/screen/controller. And while the stats show the weight is ok that wasn’t through choice.

Weight 2023

I had IBS for a couple of months from late August and it shows in the weight loss. It’s come back on quickly enough but I need to be mindful that some of the ailments I suffer from particularly migraines/headaches are stress related and there’s no doubt that some of the work I was involved in this year impacted my health. Some of that was self inflicted as I threw myself into the new role but some of it was pressures from elsewhere and I need to control that better and be more self aware going forward.

If I’m being honest I was approaching burnout and the body was shouting it loudly and the head was saying don’t be daft, it’s fine. The first 5 months of the year I was disciplined and did almost zero weekend work. That then changed and I worked flat out for weeks at a time which isn’t sustainable. However I’ve had a good long Christmas break and I’m now more determined to make time for me. My trusted friends inside and outside of work can spot the signs and they have looked out for me which I’ll always appreciate even if I don’t say it.

Media

Made a concerted effort to watch more films this year and logged 88 films which is far more than the measly 25 in 2022. Highlights were Aftersun, T谩r, Rye Lane, Air, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Oppenheimer, Blackberry, Killers of the Flower Moon and Past Lives. 100 in 2024?

Watched far too much TV and still have quite the backlog but series I really enjoyed included The Last of Us, Silo, Happy Valley, Poker Face, The Gold, Slow Horses, Race Across The World, Blue Lights, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, Foundation, The Bear and Boiling Point.

As for games I spent far too much on hardware and have a new gaming PC and a Steam Deck OLED. PC has a 4090 in it and while games look amazing my room is a sauna in the summer 馃槀. Games I enjoyed this year were limited to older titles although I’m committing to Balders Gate 3 in 2024. The improvement in Halo Infinite thanks to new maps and regular drops of content is huge so thats still my goto game. Also got back into Super Hexagon and its variants on the Steam Deck. God I love that game although my age is showing me up now.

One thing I’ve not missed is Twitter/X. A site I once loved but now fully embrace Mastodon with a bit of Threads mixed in. The brands and the politicians haven’t moved away though which is a shame but I鈥檓 missing those less than expected. Hopefully Space Karen walks away from X in 2024…or is pushed.

Finally, podcasts. The Rest is Entertainment and The Town are two new essentials. I’ve also had to drop a couple of the tech shows – they are just too long – regular 3 hour episodes are difficult to squeeze in.

Whats Next?

So 2024, no resolutions although I do put a theme together to help guide where I want to improve or change. The first three to four months will be very career and work focussed but I must take the time to separate work and home life and have proper down time. Need to give myself permission to switch off which I find easier to say, difficult to do…so work to be done.

Also want to put more effort into this little bit of the internet that I post on. Weeknotes are interesting but I fall out the habit, maybe more shorter form links and thoughts that I used to push onto Twitter will appear more regularly. Still thinking that through but got a bit of excitement around the website again which I haven’t had in a while.

2024 has so much potential that I can’t wait to get stuck in…here’s to a happy and healthy 2024 for you all.

Default Apps 2023

A man standing in the hills of Scotland being invaded by apps

If there鈥檚 anything thats going to kick start my blog it鈥檚 a trend talking about app鈥檚. I first saw a post from Matt Birchler a couple of weeks back and it turns out it鈥檚 inspired by聽Hemispheric Views 097 – Duel of the Defaults! with Robb Knight going above and beyond tracking a list of people taking part.

Anyway, on with the list:聽

The takeaway for me is I use many more default Apple services than before and I鈥檓 looking at Apple Podcasts to replace Overcast and Keychain/iCloud Passwords as the enshitification of 1Password continues. iCloud replaced Dropbox in the last 18 months, Apple Mail instead of Spark although Word, Excel and Powerpoint are safe as Apple鈥檚 office tools have never clicked for me. So why the shift?

App subscription fatigue is definitely a factor as there鈥檚 only so many subscriptions that I鈥檓 willing to do that deliver value. There鈥檚 also a narrowing of capability over time and ease of use just using defaults when you鈥檙e all in on one ecosystem. If only friends could actually use just one messaging platform!

If you do like trying out new apps the full list of participants is a mine of information鈥nd I鈥檝e found quite a few new blogs to follow. Good old RSS. Next up, I really should setup an uses page to make this easier to reference.

Twenty

Hard to believe but it鈥檚 twenty years since the first post on the site. At that time it was iand.net and I restarted from a previous blog which was running for a couple of years. Looking at screens from 2002 and the old blog really takes me back to a different world.

That was published using Radio Userland, blogrolls were a thing (maybe should be again) and ICQ was around too.

I don鈥檛 post as often now but still value having my own site hosting my content. Here鈥檚 to another twenty.

Weeknotes 2023.28: London

Been a while since the last update but I鈥檒l keep this first one in months focussed on the last week. Thursday was a day trip to London. For the first time I flew into London City and really preferred it to Heathrow. Transport out was quick on the DLR and then onwards on the underground. Same on the way back made easier by Express Mode via Apple Pay so it was easy to use contactless at the start and end of the journey. Considering the size of Glasgow and the opportunities with bus, train, underground and bike it鈥檚 frustrating that Glasgow Council have done little to integrate public transport and promote easy ways to pay for the services. And lets not mention the lack of trains from Glasgow Airport!

Arriving a bit early meant a little nose around London. Away from the main streets there鈥檚 always lots to see and stumbled on a little street of shops and cafes. Nothing better than a stroll around new places.

Last week also saw the 15 year anniversary of the App Store. Looking back to this screenshot from early 2009 feels like a different Platform and not an iPhone. You forget the icon design and also how small the physical phone was compared to todays retina devices. I still use 1Password and WeatherPro today鈥nd thankfully not Evernote after their recent sale. Pour one out though for the amazing Tweetie – if only that was still around and Twitter wasn鈥檛 the complete cluster it is today.

Todays home page looks very different and has probably seen more change in the last six months than the last few years thanks to the poor management of Twitter and Reddit killing Tweetbot and Apollo. Also reducing some reliance on subscription apps – I get why developers are moving to them but my subs were getting out of control so some pruning required.

The recent Steam summer sale meant a few new games in rotation. One I鈥檓 enjoying is Dredge which is billed as a fishing/horror game.

It鈥檚 perfect on the Steam Deck and while some reviews say the game can be a bit unbalanced later on I鈥檝e not got that far for it to be a problem. Love sailing out and doing a bit of fishing. Little did I know that another fishing game would return this week – Ridiculous Fishing EX has been updated and is available on Apple Arcade. Brilliant update to a fantastic mobile game.

I鈥檒l leave it there for the time being but want to get some thoughts out soon on Threads and the new gaming pc I may have just bought. It鈥檚 big.

Weeknotes 2023.11: Tired

The last few weeks have been full on, dominated by work and not much else. It niggled me that the weeknotes dropped after only three weeks, but when I kicked these off again I refused to get caught in having to post every week. I鈥檇 like to, but if I don鈥檛 have the bandwidth or feel in the right headspace to post then I won鈥檛. There鈥檚 also a growing list of tasks that I need to put some effort into, but I keep pushing them back a week..or two鈥r twenty. Reading Ian Betteridge鈥檚 weeknote today struck a chord – I have a growing list of somedays that I need to turn into action. Is it an age thing? Is it laziness? I鈥檝e got someday tasks from two years ago – thats really poor.

One interesting focus at work is growing the team, not just in numbers, but with the right training and opportunities. I think I鈥檓 getting bogged down in fairness for all with regards opportunities vs those that are  pushing for more and letting them flourish. Also had a few interesting discussions around how we could use and exploit ChatGPT or LLaMA but securely and reliably with confidence. I鈥檝e ended up playing locally at home with LLaMA riffing on Simon Willis鈥檚 post on how to get it up and running. It feels even stranger that something running on my Studio is able to parse and have conversations with really good accuracy. Next area to dabble in is LangChain thanks to this post from Matt Webb. This plugged into some corporate data sources could yield interesting results.

IMG 1168

I鈥檓 happy with my home office. A 34鈥 ultra wide in the centre and a 27鈥 4k to the side is a great setup that works with the Apple Studio, the work laptop or the gaming PC. I鈥檓 much more productive with multiple screens – the more the merrier. The only niggle I鈥檝e had is with the desk itself. One of my long time someday projects is to replace it with a sit/stand offering – something like the Jarvis. I鈥檓 more tempted this weekend as the Jarvis is on sale so will decide in the next day or two as it will require a rewire of some of the networking and also probably a paint refresh in the room. Thats why it鈥檚 a someday project as it鈥檚 not just swapping out the desk鈥ut I do have some holidays coming up. Tempting.

The SNP leadership race is in 鈥渢remendous mess鈥. So says Mike Russell who鈥檚 running the race. Wow. When Sturgeon announced her resignation it was clear this was the end of an era in Scottish politics but the in fighting, resignations and stench around the SNP is surprising. We鈥檒l know the winner of the contest and Scotlands next First Minister on March 27th assuming there isn鈥檛 more scandal around the process. I wonder if a losing candidate if it鈥檚 close will accept the result or ask for a re-run in light of some of the news in the last two days which comes a week after voting started. 

The Last of Us ended this week and did so strongly. A couple of slow episodes didn鈥檛 hurt the series which is one of the best in years. Also enjoyed A Man Called Otto. The Whale however was dire. Some other things that caught my attention:

Weeknotes 2023.8: Manc

Spent some time in Manchester this week meeting strategic partners. Good honest session and lots to take away and work into future roadmaps. Even the trains were on time which is remarkable. I don鈥檛 know why but trains are great for getting some work done and doing some country spotting, but the seats are just so uncomfortable for me.

IMG 2298

Took the opportunity for an early morning walk around Salford. Media city and the investments there are huge, and it was also great to see Old Trafford in the flesh. Was a lovely crisp morning – spring on the way but love these blue sky cold starts. We also lucked into a great night at Alberts Schloss. Fantastic food but it was the live band that made the night.

IMG 2277

Overwhelmed

I鈥檝e lasted longer than normal but had to crack open the work laptop and catch up over the weekend. Not something I wanted to do but mentally I hated being so behind with commitments. Being more public about it than I normally would will get me back into keeping weekends work free. It also meant less media watching this week but did have time for:

  • Ambulance – enjoyed it more than I expected. Won鈥檛 win any Oscars鈥nd I guess Michael Bay found out about this new tech called drones cause every second shoot was a drone shot.
  • Drive to Survive – although F1鈥檚 season last year wasn鈥檛 as drama packed Netflix still manage to squeeze out every last drop.
  • Better – watched 2 episodes so far and it鈥檚 kept me interested. Wee bit formulaic.

Also want to thank cancel culture for finally dropping Dilbert from many newspapers around the world. I used to love Dilbert but it鈥檚 creator, Scott Adams, has been openly racist and thankfully his public racist rants on his Youtube channel this week have had consequences. I think this was my favourite quote – “This is not a difficult decision,” Chris Quinn, editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, said in a letter to readers posted on Friday. “We are not a home for those who espouse racism.”

Over

Chvrches released their new single this week – Over. A fitting way to close off this weeks post – they just keep getting better and better.

Weeknotes 2023.7: Sprung

Milder weather, almost springlike, and the crocuses are out around Glasgow. I don’t mind the cold but the slightly lighter mornings and nights are a big thing for me. Arriving home from work not in the dark makes such a difference. Also helps with the walks.

For a few years now I’ve got into the habit of doing a daily walk irrespective of weather. If I didn’t I’d be camped in front of some form of screen for the day. In fact there were days of just a couple of hundred steps which is so poor. So in December and January the walks before and after work are in the dark – its fine really but that little bit of light makes all the difference. The walks are also important for me, not just from a physical health perspective but also mental. A good way to prep or unpack the day.

Org Design

Spent some of this week thinking of my current and wider teams organisation design. Conway’s Law is a well known organisational concept in software design but feel its often overlooked. I stumbled on Chris Fleming鈥檚 post this week which references Conways Law but expands on it – some points to consider as Fleming concludes, sometimes there鈥檚 no easy answer.

Also had a team member resign this week. Lots to unpack with that one.聽Most memorable for the wrong reasons was a discussion on health and safety at work. Sobering.

Ticked Off

Mastodon is still working well for me – less politics and news, lots of tech, media and geek. Feels like early twitter. Musk’s paid blue tick nonsense was bad enough, but the removal of 2FA via SMS without much guidance on using alternatives is jaw dropping. Bigger surprise was news today that Meta is bringing in paid verification. For $12 a month (or $15 on iOS) you too can get a blue badge on Instagram or Facebook along with increased visibility and priority support. Your username will need to match an official government supplied ID document and your profile picture must include your face to be verified. Am I missing something or is this just a clone of Musks moves at Twitter? I’ve stopped using Twitter and Facebook and Instagram is heading the same way so this will have little impact on me directly but services now charging for what was free, like SMS 2FA, does not feel right, especially for improved security and protection.

Consuming

  • Started watching Shrinking on Apple TV+ and I’m not convinced. Same team as Ted Lasso and can see similar dynamics in a different environment, but the character interaction is contrived and confusing.
  • Still enjoying the Steam Deck. A real mix of new, smaller indie games and emulation. Emu Deck is highly recommended – unlocks so many great games.
  • Watched Empire of Light and Devotion this week. Both fine films and had some parallels around historical race issues…but they also were strangely flat in pace. Neither seemed to change gear at all.
  • Final shoutout to Poker Face – really enjoying the weekly “how to catch them”. Natasha Lyonne is fantastic.

Weeknotes 2023.6: In the Red

As I put a bit more focus into the blog I鈥檓 bringing back a weekly status type post. For a few years I did a bit of link sharing at the end of the week along with what I鈥檇 been up to and a little bit on tv and movies. That fell away but I did focus on private week notes. This was in a Day One work journal and I found it a great way to clear my head at the end of the week – what happened, what worked, what do I need to do into next week and that would flow into Todoist. The prompts for each Day One entry were:

  • What happened this week?
  • What was hard?
  • What leadership did I see?
  • What did I experiment with?
  • What inspired me?
  • What do I need to take care of?
  • What am I looking forward to next week?

The last question may feel contrived but it was to get my headspace into a more positive place. All too easy to focus on negatives. I鈥檝e got 2-3 years of week notes in that format鈥ut why private? Partly because of who I work for and the type of work we do, but the real reason is I鈥檓 an introvert and many things I want to pour into a journal type post, especially around work, needs to remain private or I鈥檇 never write it down, get it out the system, refocus for the following week. 

However I miss the weekly blog post so it鈥檚 back, now titled weeknotes with a mixture of personal musings and updates from the last week.

Bunny

A wee bunny in the Glasgow Botanics  

Spent some time with other head of functions at the Radission Red in Glasgow. An away day that we really should do more of as it鈥檚 a chance to collaborate away from daily work pressures and focus on each of our functional needs, look at strategy, how we can support each other and some other bigger picture needs. I always come away pretty energised from these sessions even though I do have to step out of my comfort zone to fully participate but this time was different. Felt a fraud in the room, quite a bit of negativity too – maybe a sign of how things are working our career wise? Shared that with a couple of trusted voices and imposter syndrome was the feedback鈥ut maybe coupled with being an incomplete leader. There鈥檚 a handful of team issues that need attention and I must carve out time in the coming week to get the issues either resolved or at least moving in a direction even if it鈥檚 not positively.

Something I have focussed on is keeping weekends work free. I say it every year and by mid Feb I鈥檝e usually broken out the laptop and done a few hours over the weekend. So far so good for 2023, and I鈥檝e been using the time to catch up on so many films that I鈥檝e missed through the last few years. I鈥檝e watched more through Jan than the first six months of 2022. I鈥檝e watched almost all the Bafta and Oscar buzz worthy films and favourites are Aftersun and T脕R. 

Happy

Poster just of Byres Road

Things I found interesting this week

  • ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web – OpenAI鈥檚 ChatGPT has got lots of headlines, more so this week as Microsoft makes bets that ChatGPT will allow Bing to better compete with Google, and this post resonates in describing the power and also the challenge of relying on ChatGPT. Depending on how you interact with the model, answers will come back as authoritative and in many cases will be 80-90% accurate at best. In amongst the response can lurk inaccuracies – especially for more typical search engine type questions – thats my experience anyway. The coding examples tend to be either right or wide of the mark. As an aside, one of the team at work asked a few weeks ago about using ChatGPT – sure – as long as you can understand, document and support the code. I hadn鈥檛 thought to try basic arithmetic in ChatGPT but as the article explains, and you can try for yourself, the results get bad quickly. There鈥檚 no doubt that ChatGPT is a powerful tool but it鈥檚 not AI鈥et. This is a nice companion piece – AI is Not the Problem.
  • GPT in 60 Lines of NumPy – long and technical post on how to setup GPT using a v2 model. Hats off to OpenAI for open sourcing so much of their material already.
  • Finally caught up on Black Bird on Apple TV+. Six parts, pretty grim subject matter but the cast and script was top notch. Sepideh Moafi stole every scene she was in.
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Black Panther is one of my favourite Marvel films but like many of the phase 4 titles this was鈥K. Too much CGI, characters I didn鈥檛 care for but they did do well respecting the loss of Chadwick Boseman. Probably not helped by having one of the major plot lines spoiled before watching.
  • Scottish politics has been entertaining for years. The news that MP Stewart McDonalds emails had been hacked by a Russian group was interesting but not sure there was much proof of who had done it. Roll forward a few days and Craig Murray claims to have McDonalds emails and will publishing material that is in the public interest. Mmm. How did he get the emails? If there was anything interesting surely as a journalist he鈥檇 publish the story first? We鈥檒l see what if anything he publishes in the coming weeks.
  • Shift Happens: A book about keyboards looks to be a definitive book on keyboards and one I couldn鈥檛 resist. It鈥檚 expensive but the books look so good with over 1300 photos. There鈥檚 more detail on the  books contents on its official site
  • The Rest is Politics has been a favourite pod since the middle of last year. Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart鈥檚 unlikely bromance is a fair piece on what makes the podcast a must listen.

(F)acts, (A)ssumptions, (B)eliefs

Here鈥檚 an activity ANY team can do to stay more aligned.

It is fabulous. It is simple. But consider how often you and your team are misaligned on the foundational things underpinning your work.

FAB – Facts, Assumptions, Beliefs

1. Start a document

2. List incontrovertible FACTS relevant to your work.

For example:

  • Net Revenue Retention for [Profile] is currently ###%
  • [Competitor] recently launched [Product]
  • There’s a relationship between the housing market and interest rates

Provide links to the data/insights that support these facts.

3. List ASSUMPTIONS relevant to your work, along with something to indicate the current level of certainty. Indicate the relationship between the assumption and your current work.

For example:

We are operating on the assumption that [Profile] will not adopt the new product extensions in 2023 but will gradually adopt them in 2024.

  • Implications: decreased investment in 2023 with a ramp into 2024.
  • Confidence: medium-high (though falling)
  • Type: Operating (revisit on #/##/####)

We assume that a lack of expertise in [Segment] will hamper the shift to [New Technology]. 

  • Implications: New product initiatives centered around the expertise gap in [Segment]
  • Confidence: low (but increasing, with active research)
  • Type: Testing (report research on #/##/####)

Provide links to the data/insights that support these assumptions.

Note the difference between operating assumptions鈥攖hings we are currently operating based on and will revisit鈥攁nd assumptions we are testing.

4. List your BELIEFS. 

“Wait, aren’t those assumptions?” Yes, and no. Beliefs are foundational assumptions. They may span years or decades. By calling them beliefs, we are also acknowledging contrarian and untestable assumptions.

e.g.

  • We believe in a sea-change shift to [some practice]
  • We believe [technology] will eventually become a commodity

5. After establishing this document, establish a ritual of regularly revisiting FAB. 

  1. Keep a history of the doc
  2. Review and update regularly
  3. Encourage your team to make notes in the document and batch up the feedback for the next meeting.

Bonus 1: FAB is fractal. There are company-wide FABs and team-level FABs. In an ideal world, you make all of these public and accessible.

Bonus 2:聽Note how some things remain stable (hopefully), while other things change all the time (not necessarily a bad thing). If EVERYTHING changes all the time, you should explore that. Why?

From https://cutlefish.substack.com/p/tbm-4652-facts-assumptions-beliefs