Weeknotes TEN:2

Hello readers. Here we are, caught between Gregorian cycles and a super blood wolf moon eclipse. I have a beer, and I’ve just noticed the back of my work notebook has “Daddy’s Big Book Of Stuff” scrawled on it by an 8-year-old. Here are some things that interested me this week.

(Note: More than three things interested me this week.)

1. Cost of context switching is not just for coders

Monday morning: I flick through my calendar and prep for the week, like anyone with socks and a brain. This week is blocked-out; maybe I’ve “made it” as a manager or something, as it’s all annual review this, 6-month review that, strategy here and steering group there. Which, to be fair, is what I’ve come to love. Can’t complain.

There are pockets of non-blocks in there too, the rests between agendas. It’s so tempting to check the to-do list and mentally cram everything else into that space. Some code I’ve wanted to do for a while. Some personal research. Some write-ups. Some blogposts. It’s what I’d usually do.

But it’s still the start of the year. There’s a long way to go in 2019 yet. And experience and weeknoting tell me that, like new weeknoter Giuseppe, meetings and conversation — deep conversation about people’s lives and year-long focuses — takes a lot out of me. The blocks are big enough and the train travel is long enough that I should be fairly tired by Friday.

And switching context from “people” to the more heads-down, isolated, introverted work will turn that “tired” into “shattered”. And when I’m shattered, I get pretty grumpy.

Grumpy me attacking the world

And I’m trying to avoid that this year.

So the decision, right at the start of the week (subconsciously, probably the weekend before) is to avoid switching mindset/context as much as possible. If I need to be talkative, I’ll stay in external, talkative mood all week, and try not to get bogged down in detailed work, if possible.

4 days on, writing this on Friday: my mood is good. I got woken up at 5.20am today, but I feel (relatively) fresh. Fresh enough to write weeknotes, at least. The rest of the house has collapsed.

2. The megatropolis bubble effect

On Thursday I travelled up to the Big Smoke. London welcomed me with its gift-wrapped buildings, growing inside silver sheets like alien pupae. I got 50p off coffee for having my own mug, and men with guns stood protecting the Underground’s escalators.

I had a clear head and navigated the tube, noticing how at home the signposting was. The stark lines, clear fonts and bold colours of the system stand out against the melody of adverts, and I’m always amazed at how quickly I can pick out where I need to go. Great design.

As I get back toward home, and the train slides through a broad, pale sky drifting over barrow tumuli, I can’t help noticing the effect of entering a city. Everything it needs is there in abundance, like the world has been rebuilt in localisable miniature. There’s no need for the things I’m returning to now, like pheasants and out-of-town supermarkets, because cities are, effectively (in both senses) self-sufficient.

I don’t know why this is weird to me today. Brexit, perhaps. Thinking about viewpoints. How do you explain out-of-city living to people contained in that bubble? I lived in Brighton for years, but hardly ever went out into the nearby countryside, and never ever visited small towns for their charity shops and playing fields. That’s my world now though, so far away.

What some sort of dancing anime bear maybe

I don’t really know why I’m mentioning this, except to perhaps savour the difference that our environment makes on how we think. Does a frantic ambience speed us up, distract us from slower thought? Can a sense of open space lead to more open ideas?

3. More than I know

I think I am maybe now am “expert” in social value. Not in the “traditional” sense. More like I now know enough about it to be utterly confused by it. Which, I think, is the sign of an expert? Not that you know how to do something, but that you know how not to do something, and what not to do, probably to the point where nothing ever gets done. If you can explain that to other people, you’re a consultant.

Seriously though, I had two conversations delving into social value this week, and I think I have my head wrapped round it pretty well. It’s an area that brings together data, policy and society, plus I’m adding my own technical backing into the mix, having been working on a social value tool for, uh, 5 years? 6?

It’s not an area that fits well into one discipline or another — applying metrics to social bonds is tricky for a few key reasons (see above note about explaining it well). Without some research training, it’s hard to get what it is/isn’t — much harder, I think, than explaining what “Pure” data is (like counting road cones or something). I think maybe it’s one of a whole field of ‘weird data’ — ie efforts in society where we so desperately want to turn it into a database, and yet there are huge practical and emotional reasons why it doesn’t fit our current scientific approach.

Anyway, no details here or I’ll be off on one. But it feels nice to note that this is an area I’ve stumbled into, and accidentally seem to have a fair bit of knowledge on. I have no idea if that’s good for future plans or not. Should I make something more of it? Is it what I’m interested in?

Knowing about social value is like being a small wide-eyed creature, apparently

Anyway, it’s a topic I’m vaguely happy to chat on if anyone needs ;-)

What else is in my head?


Originally published at Graham’s Weeknotes.