Weekly Digest for Sunday 20th October

Autumn has finally hit Glasgow. Colder mornings, shorter days but some glorious colour out there. Autumn into winter is probably my favourite season so looking forward to getting out some more with the camera and drone.

Autumn has come to Glasgow.

This is also the first of my digest posts in a long time. I’ve missed doing them but I had become jaded with them, and I think part of the reason is I’d automated much of the posting and it turned into another task on the list. I missed the crafting, curation and writing each week. Instead it was an iOS shortcut plus adding a couple of lines to get the post pushed out.

So trying something a bit different with the return of these posts. Less linkage and a bit more hand cranked and aiming but not forcing myself into doing it every week. So with that, on to the links.

INEOS 1:59 Challenge

Chris mentioned this a few days before saying he’d be watching Eliud Kipchoge hopefully break the 2 hour barrier for a marathon. I’d no real intention of watching live but in retrospect, I’m so glad I did. It wasn’t just seeing Kipchoge meet his goal but the sheer joy of his fellow athletes as they realised that he’d done it. These aren’t any old athletes either – they are all world class athletes from 1500m upwards and seeing that kind of emotion from them is so rare. I don’t mind admitting to shedding a little joyful tear after he crossed the line.

Kipchoge breaks the 2 hour barrier for a marathon

Of course there’s controversy. It wasn’t a race, he had pace setters, he was protected throughout and he was wearing shoes that a few athletes have now raised concerns about. No matter…for me this is up there with Bannister and other athletic feats over the years. If you are interested in finding out more about the challenge this short documentary series is worth spending an hour on.

Gender Gap

The gender gap has been news for years and while progress has been made it’s still “a thing”. This report in the HBR breaks the data down into 6 pretty jaw dropping charts. Progress is stagnating especially in the last couple of years. One of the biggest gaps is in politics. Western Europe is leading the way thanks to smaller countries like Iceland, Nordic countries and Ireland. The real kicker is that it will be 108 years for women to see parity with men across the globe. To think I heard a colleague dismiss the gender gap as nonsense only a few weeks ago. Sigh.

Modern Science

I read this shaking my head for the most of it – Meet the wounded veteran who got a penis transplant. Not in disgust or annoyance but at the wonders of todays medical science and the impact it can have on people. Great read, probably my favourite this week.

Best Wildlife Photographs of 2019

National Geographic Have announced their best wildlife photographs of 2019. The images are stunning although my favourites isn’t the winner but the photo of 5000 penguins trying to keep warm.

Huddle

Just Delete Me

More and more people are looking to leave services like Facebook and Twitter but finding it a bit tricky. Step forward Just Delete Me. The site allows you to search for the service you want to quit and will link you to the relevant page to start your deletion. Biggest shock were some of the difficult services, looking at you Adobe, but also the ones marked as impossible. A good list of services to avoid.

Analogue Pocket

Game emulation has never been more popular. Once it was an underground scene but now thanks to Nintendo and Sony it’s a legitimate revenue stream. It’s also a big digital market on consoles thanks to remakes or just a great way to remember the glory days of Space Harrier or F-Zero. Analogue Pocket is an upcoming handheld console that not only lets you play Gameboy or Gameboy Advance cartridges but also Game Gear and Atari Lynx plus others.

Analogue Pocket – gorgeous

It’s out in 2020 for $199 and I really want one. Plus a Playdate.

Succession

My favourite show of the year was Succession. Season 2 finished on Monday and if you’ve watched it you’ll love this article at the NYT where the writer Jesse Armstrong discusses the finale. Only read once you’ve watched it as there are spoilers. The worst thing about the finale was realising it’s a year before the next series.

Need vs Want

It’s September. It’s Autumn. It’s Apple release time. Not only do we get OS update’s across the ecosystem and this year Apple really are spoiling us with multiple iOS updates in September alone (bugs!) but we get the annual launch of new iPhones.

This years updates focus on the camera and extra battery life. I’m not triggered by the three camera’s as some were but there’s no denying the bump is getting…large. However visiting the Apple Store yesterday the design certainly camouflage’s the bump better than I expected from the pictures. I also love the smoky glass on the back compared to previous years.

The camera’s though are special. The new ultra-wide is a really nice addition to the iPhone. The clarity and tones from testing in the store today were impressive. Didn’t try the video but the embed below from Andy To is so good. For a more detailed review of the camera, Austin Mann’s write up is well worth spending time on.

One other tiny change is a slightly thicker case alongside a drop of 3D Touch but coupled with a redesigned battery gives a 4 or 5 hour increase in life if you go for a Pro model. Compelling changes…and don’t forget that new Pro colour. More speed, better screen, what’s there not to like?

Love the midnight green

Well…the price for one. My iPhone X is 2 years old and was by far the most expensive phone purchase I’d made. I said at the time I’d be moving to at least a 2 year upgrade cycle so now’s the time to move to a new phone.

But the X is still doing well. Fast, good battery life and the design hasn’t really moved on since the X. Looks exactly the same from the front and sides.

So I want a new iPhone.

I don’t need a new iPhone.

And at £1200, I’ll be giving the iPhone 11 Pro a miss this year.

Need vs want.

In the past I’d upgrade yearly and enjoy those incremental, sometimes large incremental, improvements especially in years 1-5. Now the changes are smaller and not enough to see me change yearly, even every other year. I’m also surprised that both Glasgow Apple stores still have stock of the Pro models three days after launch. Mmmmm.

Need vs want.

Still very tempted…but the credit card will stay locked away for another year.

Brainstorming

So how do you hold a brainstorming session that does not suck?

  • Invite the right people: Get a good group of people that are from a diversity of departments that have experience in different aspects of your product, company and customers and can bring those view points to the table. Make sure the group is not too big and not too small 6–10 is about right. Avoid inviting people just because.
  • Find the right space: Find an open space with plenty of space to write on — white boards or walls to add sticky notes to do the trick. Make sure the setup is conducive to moving around preferable with a big round table in the middle so people can face each other or the presenter.
  • Send an agenda: Make sure people know the objective for the session
  • Assign roles: Most of the attendees will be the brainstormers, however, your meeting will be that much more structured if there is an un-objective person whose sole role is to keep it moving, and make sure that everyone’s voice is heard — this is usually the facilitator. Assign ahead of time the note taker whose role is to keep track of the top ideas by writing them on the board and then sharing out the learnings and next step as a wrap up of the conversation. 
  • Introduce Brainstorming rules:IDEO’s 7 rules are clear and to the point and will help level set the group on what is brainstorming. Although design and product might be used to the sticky note exercises others might not be.
  • Get a facilitator: To ensure the session is truly unbiased and to learn yourself get a facilitator. This person, as an outsider, will not have baggage with the company and will allow you to be a part of the process.
  • Kick it off right: Get the data qualitative or quantitative to ground the conversation and why you are taking the time out of your day to have it. Prepare the high level anchor question for the group that will set the stage for your session “How might we….”, and then articulate any sub-themes that you know are already focus areas.
  • Start with a simple exercise: Get people out of their comfort zone and into a brainstorming mood with an easy opening exercise. For example ask the people in the room to spend 5 minutes drawing 5 others in the room. You’ll get a few “I don’t know how to draw” followed by laughter and people getting open to the idea that it’s not about the drawing ability but expressing the idea. 
  • Use tons of sticky notes and sharpies: Sticky notes are effective because they are fun and not like work so it allows every person to get out of their day to day and start thinking creatively. Why a marker and not a pen? Because this is about high level themes and ideas the more the better and what ifs rather than solving the how. If it does not fit on a sticky note using a sharpie it does not belong in this meeting as you have slipped into solution land. Don’t do this electronically if you can.
  • Remote team members: Try to get them in the room if possible. If you have a team member that is remote make sure they are paired with a scribe in the room. Make an effort to let them be heard and get them to see the boards and ideas getting generated.
  • Time constraint: Set a clear time for the sessions and keep the tempo moving (back to the need for a facilitator). Make sure there are stretch breaks and people stand up and walk around during the exercises as much as possible or you will start to loose people.
  • Take care of the people: Make sure there are nutritional snacks in the room. Brainstorming consumes enormous amounts of mental energy and sucks us into itself because like a game it’s fun. Make sure to take care of the people in the room and their brains will remain productive.
  • Focus the second half on getting to decisions: It is easy to get into a flurry of things you can do and ideas. That is the point of a brainstorming session. However, set aside the second half on clustering, grouping and getting to the focus set of things you will act on.
  • Accountability and next steps: Assign who is taking the next steps and sharing out what you uncovered in this brainstorm and the next actionable steps. Make sure that follow up is sent the next day so the energy you uncovered in this session continues and the ideas that made it get the right start. Share your findings with the rest of the company to get the others focused on learning and aligned with you.

Alternative brainstorming approach

  1. Set the ground rules and goals
    • Quantity over quality
    • No critiques
    • Build on ideas. Replace “yes, but…” with “yes, and…”
  2. Distribute sticky notes, sharpies
  3. Pose a question, user need or topic.
  4. Participants have 5 min to get as many ideas on sticky notes as possible. 1 idea per sticky note. Sharpies help because they are nice and thick — legible at a distance, and they prevent fine detail work.
  5. At the end of the 5m mark, go around and have people share their ideas.
  6. Put the ideas up on the board.
  7. Do this for 3 rounds. Toward the later rounds, new ideas tend to emerge, synthesized from others already shared.
  8. Cluster ideas by theme, topic, approach.

From https://medium.com/@elena.luneva/brainstorming-sessions-that-don-t-suck-23b12e7ccbd7 and http://gordonbrander.com/pattern/brainstorming/

Create Choices, Make Choices

The creative process…

Divergent thinking:

  • Yields options and choices
  • Suspend judgement and analysis
  • Focus on breadth not depth
  • Test competing ideas against each other

Covergent thinking:

  • Eliminate options – trim and edit
  • Make choices – polish
  • Practical way to decide among existing choices
  • Not good at probing the future

These 2 stages also map to problem-solving methodologies used by design and engineering.

Design uses a range of strategies from both stages. Intuition, and creative strategies like moodboards, form finding, and brainstorming are used to create choices. Iteration, design reviews, critique are used to make choices.

Production engineering is typically a process of making choices for implementation. It uses a strategy of modularizing problems — breaking problems into smaller parts, then solving each part. It can also be exploratory. Prototyping can be a process of creating choices when you take the build to think approach.

7 habits for developing a Technical Architect Mindset

  1. Decisions are not dichotomies of either/or.
    It’s not clicks or code, its clicks and code, or clicks at first, and then replacement with code. Or too much code, for the wrong reason, or too many clicks, for the right non-functional performance requirements. Some questions aren’t ‘Should I do this in clicks or code’ its ‘Should we do this at all’ or ‘What happens if I do it this way?’
  2. Becoming an Architect isn’t a destination.
    It’s a progressive journey that does not end. It may reach an inflection point (with a job title), but it’s not a mountain you climb where you reach the top and gaze down on the world below.
  3. You can’t study all the answers, but you can seek the experience.
    There is no book of ready-made answers to every situation. There are only things you see and hear and read. Ideas picked up from colleagues, war stories told by clients or friends, that project that failed, that idea that didn’t work out, that thing that succeeded. You do it over and over and over. The study gives you ingredients but cooking the meal, that comes from experience.
  4. There are no right answers. There are principles to learn and apply.
    There are better or worse answers, depending on the circumstances. Do you know all the circumstances? Have you considered the options for the answers? Do you know the questions to ask?
  5. It’s not about being ‘right’
    Indeed, you might not know if the design has succeeded or failed until years later. What was a success could be declared a failure with changing business conditions, changing assumptions, changing politics, changing technology. Often the right answer isn’t easily seen, it is simply your answer, supported by the reasons you can articulate and accepting the trade-offs you know come with it. If you think you are the smartest person in the room… then you are on your way to failure. Staggering insecurity is a feature, not a bug.
  6. The idea is the easy part, the persuasion is where all the work is.
    Can you convince a room full of people they are looking at the problem the wrong way? Can you justify your choices with the right props? Can you use diagrams, analogies, examples, stories, a raised voice or a timely question to win over a group of people?
  7. More here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND-dX-__I1Y&t=528s

From https://limitexception.com/another-7-habits-for-developing-a-technical-architect-mindset-448c9f3fec13

Monthly Digest?

Life
Still not sure what to do with these posts, so here’s a bumper one that has a few weeks worth of links.

Media
Leave No Trace – loved this, one of best films I’ve watched in a while
BlacKKKlansman – great story but found the film didn’t know what it was in places
First Man – well made and great acting
Widows – good film, fell a little towards the end

Links

The Post FKA Weekly Digest

2 weeks. That how long I lasted. Although I said I’d be retiring my weekly posts I’ve missed doing them over the last few days. So don’t call it a comeback but there will be some sort of wrap-up appearing on the site going forward.

Media
Searching – really enjoyed this. Good twists although a couple were sign posted early on.

Manhunt – even though based on real life events and knowing the outcome, this was well made and acted by all.

Brexit:The Uncivil War – enjoyed it but it still feels like it was too early for this.

Apple in 2019
There’s always speculation around Apple and it’s unannouced products but 2019 has taken on increased importance. After the surprise downgrade in it’s sales forecast many are now wondering what’s next for Apple. While this is unheard of in Apple’s recent history the signs were there that iPhone sales had peaked. Smartphone saturation, increased costs, devices lasting ever longer and a sense that Apple devices were no longer “the best” to justify the premium. I’ve seen many posts saying Cook needs to come up with the next new category to drive Apple forward like AR glasses or a car but I disagree.

Apple need to do a Microsoft. Become more open, offer more services, stop locking content to only their hardware…and look to offer better value for money or start to innovate over and above their competitors. For more on why Apple got into this position and what they can do next read either Ben Thomson or MG Siegler for great analysis on what’s next for Apple.

Andy Murray
Watching Andy Murray’s press conference from the Australian Open was pretty hard. This is Scotlands greatest sportsman having to give up what he loves as his body has let him down.

I really liked this post on his career from The Independent but that was trumped today by The National’s Open Love Letter. Murray has provided so many great sporting moments and had a wonderful career but worth also remembering his support for women throughout his career. Still love the “male player” and withering “mmmmmmmm” when talking to this American journalist. He’ll be sorely missed in British sport and I hope he can finish at this years Wimbledon.

What a mess
Politics in both Britain and America are in such a mess. One breath of fresh air is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is fire and I love that she makes mistakes but admits them. She also uses social media better than most. One to watch.

And one we can’t stop watching is brexist. This topic has dominated UK politics for too long and it’s still clear the country is split. The mood is perfectly captured by Marina Hyde. I only hope the vote on Tuesday will move things on, and hopefully for the better. Brexit is such a car crash.

Open Web
RSS has been one of the open web’s success stories. So I was pretty pissed when I read about it’s demise on Motherboard. While Google Reader was abandoned many years ago I still get most of my news via RSS and the services that replaced Google Reader offer many more features than Google ever did.

RSS is also at the heart of the podcast industry and means podcasts can be heard anywhere in any client on any platform although some companies are trying to change that. What surprised me recently is that the BBC have moved one of their podcasts, Fortunately, to be only available via the BBC Sounds app. Really disappointed in the BBC and hopefully they will reconsider this over time.

Farewell 2018

The end of another year spawns yet another wrap up post, so in no particular order.

Photography
I focussed a lot more on my photography this year. Always a keen snapper but was lazy when it came to actual editing and publishing online. It took me a while but towards the end of April I started a new Instagram account and in the middle of the year sorted out a website (still unfinished) and domain for my photography.

You’ll find my photographs at one of the following locations:

Instagram – iandick_photography
Website – https://www.iandickphotography.com
Flickr – ian_d

My biggest challenge is still getting out and about with the camera although I’ve done a better job of that since October. The shorter days certainly help with the sunrise/sunsets which seem to be popular for some reason 😉

My top nine liked images from 2018 on Instagram

Instagram has been interesting. I’ve been growing who I follow slowly and finding lots of inspiration from fellow photographers. However the constant nagging from Instagram/Facebook around boosting posts, the variation in engagement and the smell of shit in general from that company is making me question the investment in time. I’ve had a Flickr Pro account for years and amazingly, despite everyone saying it’s dead, I’ve found that to be the more rewarding place to visit. Images look so much better and you aren’t constantly being socially engineered when you use their platform. They also have an iPad app and I’ve a bit more confidence in their future since their tie up with SmugMug.

2019 will see me stretching my legs a bit more out and about around Scotland. Still focussing on landscape photography although I’d love to mix in a bit of street and astro.

Health
Health has been slowly getting better. Still have really bad days with the viral chest thing I’ve got and still couldn’t go for a run yet but it feels like the running could be back in 2019. Really miss those frosty winter runs.

I have kept the rings streak going though. Today I closed my Apple Watch rings so thats a calendar year crossed off and day 657 of the streak. It’s still too easy for me to sit on my arse and do nothing so I find the rings a helpful nudge to stay active.

Finally my weight has stayed pretty consistent…but the trend is a slow increase. 1kg heavier than this time last year so need to keep an eye on things over 2019.

Tech
A pretty quiet tech year for me…kind off. The photography kit saw some upgrades starting off with a new drone – the DJI Mavic Air. Loved the size and portability of it. Also invested in Lee filters to help with long exposures. This meant the camera bag I had was just too small so bought the Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW which has been fantastic in the last six months of usage. Everything fits well, it’s really comfy over long distances and I can carry just one bag and hold all my photography kit. Version 2 of the bag has now been released and it comes highly recommended.

The Lowepro even coped with another drone. DJI brought out the Mavic 2 Pro and although I called Shak mad for selling his Mavic Air and upgrading, I did the same a week later and have no regrets. Still portable it is faster, quieter and takes better images than the Air and my old Phantom. The extra battery life also allows you to do far more with one battery. The Mavic 2 Pro is my favourite purchase of 2018.

Dawn over Loch Ard from the Mavic 2 Pro

Two other upgrades were the Apple Watch and the iPad. The Apple Watch has been great. Much better battery life, bigger screen and general speed of operation are my favourite features. The iPad is also impressive. Went for the 12.9″ screen and I love it in every day use. Design is great, speed is fantastic but it is held back by iOS. Hopefully 2019 will see some much needed improvements to iOS and across the Apple software platform in general.

Final tech mention of 2018 is web hosts. Through the summer I moved over to Linode and it’s been a great move. Host all my sites with them and despite it being more work to setup this is outweighed by the power and flexibility they offer.

All good things…
One thing that is coming to an end is my “Weekly Digest” posts. I’ve been running a weekly “what I’ve read/watched” post since March 2015 but they’ve run their course and so last week’s was the final digest on the site. Although that was the final post here’s the final final what I’ve read/enjoyed this week:

If you want to keep up to date with things I read or store for future reference then Pinboard is the best bet or the associated RSS feed. Warning – there’s a lot of stuff I throw into Pinboard. I’ve also started to make more use of Letterboxd for my movie watching.

The End
2018 for me has been fine but in general has felt a pretty dark year. So much negativity with politics, brexit and around social networks and technology. 2019 promises more of the same…if anything worse. On that cheery note, all the best for 2019 and chin up – it is always darkest just before the day dawneth.

Weekly Digest

Life
It really is Christmas Eve and this is the last update for the year. Hopefully this post finds you well and I wish you all the best for the rest of the holidays and into 2019.

This is a bumper update too…and may be the last for a while so enjoy.

Media
Red Dead Redemption 2 – Single player completed. Chris described it as a Tour de Force and I can’t disagree. A truly believable world that is so rich both graphically and due to the characters and their stories. The game isn’t without it’s issues including some predictable missions and also some repeating gameplay elements…and some not very intelligent enemies in some missions but these are minor niggles. This is the first single player game I’ve completed in years and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Cobra Kai – cheesy as hell, terrible acting, bad writing but some funny moments

The Predator – not the best, just watch the original instead.

Links