the medium is the massage

This LinkedIn article by Jonathan Waldheim-Ross has some great stuff in it: Product for the People: Edinburgh.

I particularly like the bit on the 30-minute week note:

The premise is simple – if you work together you can write something useful in just 30 minutes …

The approach starts with everyone answering the question “what did I learn this week?” – from there, team members rotate through either team members answers and ask a follow-up question based on the last answer – rotate, repeat.

Must give this a try. Thanks to Janine Sheridan for pinging this my way on Slack. Full of useful things, is Janine.

UX writer and content designer Hasan Bakir shared some useful links to things like voice and tone guides from companies that fall on the spectrum of not-at-all-bad to actually-pretty-good at words stuff. Check out his LinkedIn post. Nice one, Hasan.

Really pleased to be doing a few bits of work with Interrobang, helping out with content- and communications-type things. Jaye Hackett gave a talk at Service Design in Government during the week. Here's the blog post of that talk. Super stuff. Most organisations don't talk this way.

I've been working on a sort-of content toolkit today. A bit like a “how to blog” guide, but medium-agnostic. It will almost always be, or start with, a blog post, but I want to encourage people to focus on the idea more than the medium.

Inevitably, I've skipped over the tricky stuff like “where ideas come from” and written all the “please don't do this” stuff that's easy to brain-dump in a fairly passive-aggessive first draft. You'll have noticed I have bad habit of writing from annoyance. Anywhere other than here, I'll smooth that away in the redrafts, but personal blogs are the land where the first attempt is king, or something.

I thought this would be fun to share. I'm mulling if these things need saying at all, but I think they do because they can create both challenges and friction when they happen. Things like:

Sharing locked-down documents: Oof, this will take a while if you want to be gatekeeper of every edit. Your time is almost certainly more important than that. You’ll get a chance to review before we publish. Work with trust, and as a team.

Insisting on more marketing-y language: A lot of people think they're a writer, and many are right. Less common are the people that think they're a marketer, and some of them are right too. But it's always vexing to have suggestions like “lead with the value proposition.” That's sometimes a good thing – like on a commercial landing page. But it can kill a blog post stone dead. There’s a music to words well-written, and value prop after value prop is elevator muzak.

Getting hung up on style: Trust that we work to a style guide. We don’t expect you to know the ins and outs. But trust that we do. There's a reason we put “4” and not “four” in that context.

Getting hung up on grammar: I'm looking at you, software engineers. We want to write words that are easy to understand. That means doing the basic stuff. Sometimes it means ignoring the fussy stuff. Everyone does commas differently. Sometimes we’ll use an Oxford comma. Sometimes we won’t. Relax – if it makes conversational sense it’s probably fine.

What do you reckon? Better yet, what have I missed?

Tell you what. Calendars are kind of broken, aren't they? I don't know about you but I don't have one calendar. I have a work calendar, and all its sub-calendars and shared team calendars. And my personal/home calendar and it's sub-calendars and shared family calendars. And I have a few more here and there for, for example, online groups and cooperatives I do creative things for and with.

There's no single source of truth for what's going on in my life. I could plug them into an app, but then I'm tied to that device. I could try to plumb them into each other online using the various standards and protocols. Those a great, but again, they're a faff – there's a ton of intertia to actually doing it because it'll be painful, and will it work anyway?

Or maybe they're not broken, and they just feel it? Maybe there is a great way to organise all your stuff that's happening in one place you can look at wherever you, with whatever device you have. But I doubt it. I think I'd know about it.

I reckon what I'm asking for is for online calendars to talk to eachother at the account level, not the calendar level. Oh, you're over there too, are you? Great – here are all your calendars there. I'll pop them in the sidebar here and you can turn them on and off. And they'll appear in your list of calendars if you want to add a new event. Could it be that easy? I don't really see why not, if you build the tools the right way. Maybe that's what it is: a calendar fit for the Fediverse. Not sure…

I've made a lot of videos in my career. Some better than others. I've learned a lot doing them. And through mistakes, inevitably some things not to do. That learning continues, of course. But a few things I have learned are that:

  • making videos looks easy
  • making videos is hard
  • people are excited to make videos
  • people don't always fully grasp what's involved

Before you make a video, it's always good to ask why you're making it. It's good to ask because video is an expensive and time-consuming way to make content. It's unbeatable for what it's good at. But if you can do it another way, you should take a good look, because it'll almost certainly be faster and cheaper.

It's great when people are excited to make a video of course. But to be 100% honest, it can make me a little anxious too. Because there may be some bubbles that have to be burst.

It's so tempting to aim much much too high. Like multibillion corporations or the famous YouTubers make. The thing is: the more ambitious a video the more expensive it is. And on top of that, the more things that can go wrong. The more complexity you add, the more points of failure there.

Some potential points of failure are:

  • lighting
  • camerawork
  • animation
  • sound
  • interview technique
  • scripting
  • editing
  • voice over
  • music
  • captions

Each of things is a craft that takes time to hone. They take creativity, good judgement and good taste. It's likely going to take a team of experienced people. People who know how to avoid the pitfalls they've fallen into before.

The reason I write this is because so often, how hard video is to work with as a medium is overlooked, and the results can be mixed, even bad. The footage might be too dark. The camera's in the wrong aspect ratio for the platform. The voice over is cheesy. It's too long.

The way to make an OK video – and OK is plenty ambitious enough – is to look at every piece of the video and what you can possibly do to make sure it's not shit.

If when you work with a video person, and they try to manage your expectations, this is why.

ilu is back after a short hiatus.

Datasette – Holiday 88

  1. Datasette – Holiday 88
  2. Bochum Welt – La Nuit – Mixed
  3. JakoJako – Deine Augen
  4. Datasette – K-Cloche
  5. Kidkanevil, Daisuke Tanabe – Harmonics, Pt. 1
  6. Plaid – Wen
  7. Proem – Rectangle Snake
  8. Datasette – Shooz Who
  9. Indian Wells – Four Walls
  10. Brothomstates – Mdrmx

Listen on Spotify Image: Datasette – Existenzmaximum EP

Ochre – Project Caelus

  1. The Black Dog – Jupiler
  2. Aphex Twin – Blackbox Life Recorder 21f
  3. Ochre – Tugrul
  4. Inwards – At Height
  5. Max Cooper – Resynthesis 3D (Binaural Version – Headphones Only)
  6. Underworld – Rowla A1806 – Remastered
  7. KiTA – Ceramic
  8. Too Smooth Christ – Emocoast
  9. Psilodump – Ironhorse Lost in Space
  10. Vardae – Kaipo

Listen on Spotify Image: Ochre – Project Caelus

The new social media platform from Meta, Threads, has burst onto the scene like Micah Richards in hot-coral spandex. You can't have missed it. I have thoughts.

It's not like Twitter

People say it's just like Twitter. Elon says it's just like Twitter. Threads may look like Twitter, but it isn't Twitter. Not Twitter of yore, and not Twitter of now. It's its own thing. And we don't know what that thing is yet.

Twitter of the early days had a timeline of the people you followed. You only saw posts from those people in the timeline. It had SMS support. It felt like a way to text all your friends at once. It evolved from there.

On Threads, you get an algorithmic timeline. If the people you follow aren't active, you'll see a wall of content from people you don't. A chronological timeline is coming, apparently. We'll see.

Fast-forward to Twitter of recent times, and it's about as toxic as the internet can be. Threads doesn't seem to be like that – yet. The experience of others may be different of course. There's some iffy humour, but I've seen no reports of actual hate – yet.

It doesn't need more features

It doesn't need more features: Among others, Threads launched with the core features it needed. The ability to post, the ability to follow, and the ability to block people.

Muting people, liking posts and boosting posts are good things to see at launch (if you like muting people, liking posts and boosting posts, that is).

I don't want to see a rush of features that make it as Twitter-like as possible. People are calling for those. There is a roadmap. But I hope the Threads team keep an open mind about its direction. We don't need Twitter of 2016. We need something new.

The audience gets the privacy issues

There's a bit of snippiness online about people flooding to Threads given Meta and Facebook's history with data privacy. Predictably, you see this on Mastodon. But it's a mistake to think the people using Threads don't get it. It was one of the more popular joke topics for the first day or two.

Opinion warning: People may get frustrated by people's attitudes to data privacy, but it's their choice to make. Given the vast majority of users are coming from Instagram, its user base has made some of these decisions already.

It doesn't feel new new

People have been having a blast on Threads these past few days. From a strategic point of view, it was a great move to, um, tie Threads to Instagram so closely, with the option to bring across your followers should they sign up. It removed friction. It gave people an audience from day one.

But there are down sides. Part of the fun sides of a new social network is that, to an extent, everyone's on an equal footing. Of course, famous people, being famous, will find a larger audience fast. But there's an opportunity for new people to make a splash too. Nicholas Megalis on Vine springs to mind.

But another part of the fun is the chaos. Threads has had that at least.

It's all about the algorithm

A few days in and you can see some people reporting the same frustrations. Endless trite motivational posts. The same Homer Simpson meme over and over. The same people you don't follow.

The algorithm is presumably swayed by likes. Likes are swayed by follower-count. And follower-count is down to how many Instagram followers you brought over. If my Instagram was filled what appealed to Instagram users in general, I wouldn't use it.

As queasy as we may feel about privacy, Instagram is great at showing me content – and ads – relevant to my interests. I engage with ads nowhere online. Except Instagram.

Threads isn't like this – yet. I suspect a chronological timeline will be rushed out as a better way to give people the content they're looking for. Because for now, the algorithm isn't cutting it. And it looks like that's going to take time to fix.

Word of the day: “yet”

I've used the word yet a few times here. There's so much we don't know. I'd describe Threads first days as vibrant. But that won't last. If people are going to stay. And if more people are going to be won over, Threads has to offer much more than like-bait.

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