Category: Weeknotes

Week 61 – 03/11/2019

Good but short week at work. Got stuck into a new piece of product design. I say new, it is half built but I think there are some decent changes we should make to simplify the flow of a core part of the product set. Going to be a good challenge of speed vs quality. Who will win?

Spent a lot of time backlog grooming and tidying up in general. We have a lot of old and possibly irrelevant tickets hanging around that are more like reminders than real stories. I am not sure of the best way to remember and store these ideas as well as not forgetting to do other things but dumping them in a backlog feels wrong. We have over 400 items in the main product backlog which is not that bad but it is not that good either. I would prefer to operate around the 100-150 mark and with well defined epics containing the bulk of the work and giving some well defined outcomes to aim for. My path to Utopia will be an arduous one no doubt.

Went for lunch with the ProductTank Sheffield team and picked their brains about how they organise backlogs and epics etc. We finally announced our speakers for the next ProductTank Sheffield which feels very organised.

The shortened work week was due to me taking Thursday and Friday off to venture to North Wales for three nights child free with my wife. Lots of nice food and booze in Prestatyn, Llandudno and Conwy. Highlights being TAPPS micropub for great beer and Johnny Dough’s for great pizza, both in Llandudno.

The unhealthy three days marks the end of our Summer/early Autumn unhealthiness as we start another no doubt short lived attempt at better living. My path to Utopia will be an arduous one no doubt (x2).

Week 60 – 27/10/2019

Good week at work. Felt more competent and like I was getting a handle on things. I get frustrated that I can’t just take more on right now but our tech lead said a good thing that it will just happen by osmosis. I hope he is right. Need to be a bit bolder over the next few weeks though.

At my previous employer the fallout from the takeover rumbles on. Two more of the old exec team were put on leave. Another person resigned and I went to the leaving do of one of the tech leads. It was a great drink with lots of friendly faces, some of which were still employed there but they are incresingly few. I merged worlds by taking along someone from my new work too. Booze unites us all.

In more depressing news we should have flown to Morocco this week. Thomas Cook meant we did not. My wife and I had a few health and wellbeing goals tied to that holiday. I have failed at most of them.

Lose 21lbs – Lost about 5
Run 3 times per week – Most I have managed so far is two
Run to my new place of work by the end of September – Achieved!
Be able to touch my toes – Nope
A different exercise two times per week e.g. Running and something else like Kettles, Hiit or Spinning – Nope
Less than two hours per day mobile screen time – Nope. I have started using it less and not charging it by my bed but still nowhere near this.
Read at least 4 books – Achieved. Fired up a Kindle and it is working well.

So I managed 2 out of 7. Pathetic. November will hopefully see me get back on it. The exercise is the main thing I want to crack. We have some boozy weekends sxehduled though so it will take osme discipline but I have signed up for a 10k on the first Sunday of December so I have something concrete to aim for.

New goals for November

Lose 7lbs – Need to make this more concrete with a target weight starting from a weigh in tomorrow morning.
Run 3 times per week – Monday, Thursday to work. AN Other is the challenging one. Maybe a lunchtime run?
Run 70k in total this month.
Be able to touch my toes – this is a daily habit I need to do combined with other types of exercise. The daily habit is the key / hardest thing.

I listened to two whole podcasts this week which is very rare for me. I have started drving to and from work on a Tuesday for childcare reasons and I listened to Rule of Three with Robert Popper talking about The Hotel Inspector. Just a fascinating insight into the making of comedy and one of the greatest examples of it was discussed.

Secondly I listened to Adam Buxton’s interview with Chirs Morris. Massive Chris Morris fan and this interview was excellent because it is one of the few times I have really heard him relax and just talk. Very smart, very intense and someone I wish had far more output. Talking of which I finished watching the Day Shall Come this week. I started it last week but it did not grab me. Listening to the interview made me give it another shot but it still did not really win me over. It is an amazing tale based on true events but it was neither funny enough or dramatic enough to really make me enjoy it.

What did grab me (and my wife) was Motherland. We watched it all in two sittings and it is just fantastic. Some of the characters could have been plucked from our childrens school.

Week 59 – 20/10/2019

Up and down week. Been a bit ill which is annoying. Made some progress on getting design more embedded in my workplace which is pleasing.

Been working on defining what I mean when I talk about design. Not had chance to publish anything yet but then an opportunity presented itself on Monday. A director sent an email round with some UI changes based on some patterns he had seen on a wine buying site. They were sensible suggestions but we seem to be doing a lot of design based on opinions and what good looks like on other sites and that is just not sustainable. I wrote a long reply listing out the options of how we could continue doing design and how I think we should move towards for doing design ‘properly’. Airquotes added because I am not sure if my vision of what properly is is proper enough and I laid that out in the email, I am not expert but I know what expertise could give us.

I have a decent grasp on the whole Lean UX/Design Thinking type processes are but I have not got a great set of experience in actually having done them week in and week out for years. I think I am a frsutrated designer really and if I could just learn a few workshopping methods and how to do good mapping I could pass myself of as a designer. Anyway my email was very well received by the directors and I have got my thoughts and goals published and that is a good start.

I am drawn to making changes but should I just go with the flow and just get on with things as they are? OIt does not feel right to do so but am I just being lazy and looking to make change for changes sake? I am pretty sure the changes I am trying to make will allows us to design better things but who knows.

Had a great conversation with Cam Spilman and Urška Ti?ar from local service design agency Paper. I am looking for some advice on introducing design into an org and it was great to go back and forth on the challenges and experiences they had in doing just that thing. Cam is very generous with his time and knowledge and that means a lot to me. Hopefully be able to work with them again very soon.

Watched Luc Besson do his ‘Woman who is a mysterious assassin spy type thing’ again in Anna. It is very bad. I switched it off. It is especially bad when put alongside Killing Eve. It is especially bad when put against La Femma Nikita which he also made but that was 30 years ago and people can get a bit tired and just phone it in.

No running as I have been a bit under the weather. Still well enough to go to the pub and stuff my face mind you. I will run in the morning…probably.

Week 58 – 13/10/2019

This week someone left my new employers. The difference between how people left my previous employers was stark. There was cake and champagne in the office then almost everyone stopped work at 4pm and went off to the pub all lead by the MD. At my previous place it would so quiet when people left the office. Senior maangement would be invisible. Some of us would go the pub of course but it felt almost clandestine. A good indicator of culture quality if you ask me.

Week 7 done. Starting to understand the various metaphorical sausage machines. I have to redesign a couple of them. The main one being how we deal with requests for change to the software from both cusomters and employees. How that all ties into an outcome based roadmap (that I also need to create) is starting to consume my brain. Need to push past the analysis stage and actually make something.

I allowed some Instagram marketing to work on me this week. It was for Stewart Lee’s new book, March of the Lemmings. A collection of his columns on Brexit and a write up of his Content Provider show. The show write up is fantastic. A sort of directors commentary in text format that is jarring to read and follow on the page but that is brilliant insight to the process of it being created. Would love to have an extra layer which covered more on it being written and evolving. I do love the idea of working out loud…not so good at actually doing it.

Week 57 – 06/10/2019

It has been a very good week. My brain feels erm….awake, for the first time in a long time. Not sure what has caused this but I think it is the challenge of a new industry, a supportive company that is looking for me to bring positive change and good people encouraging learning and change. I have loads of things fizzing around in my head and just need to get some structure around it all.

Useful brain food was consumed at the 8th edition of the Northern User Experience conference on Friday in Manchester. It was brilliant. Such a great line up of speakers and three of the talks were exactly what I needed to help me sort out those previously mentioned things fizzing round my head.

The other good thing about NUX was that it also gave me some inspiration for our little Product event in Sheffield. We confirmed the date for our second Product Tank Sheffield. The event is on the 21st of November which gives us a few weeks to confirm some speakers. Looking forward to all that comes with organising and running these things.

Ran to work for the first time. A semi successful attempt on Monday, I had to stop and walk for five mins after over 7k, then a full run of the route on Thursday. 9.2km in total. Managed to not record it correctly on Strava but thankfully the surveillance capitalism masters at Google had me covered with Google Fit. 59 minutes it took which is pretty slow but still very happy I have done it. To keep me on the running path I also signed up for the Percy Pud again this year. A famed 10k run in Sheffield that gifts the runners a Xmas Pud, complete with a packet of custard. I ran it in 59 mins last year. I would like to go a bit faster this year. I think 58 mins should be achievable. Marginal gains and all that.

Our cancelled holiday to Morocco and subsequent refund (thankfully) meant we had a bit of spare cash and a decision to make about what to spend it on. Kids were not that fussed about going on holiday and the prices had all sky rocketed anyway. So we bought a small car instead. A 7 year old Kia Piccanto to have as our second car. It is a pretty nice little thing and should make our lives a little easier as the ferrying round of two children gets ever more complicated as they get older.

Watched You were never really here starring Joaquin Phoenix. Best film I have seen in a quite a while. Has a dirty oppressive feel to it and is very sparse both in dialogue and detail with lots of scenes only showing the bare minimum needed. I then watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy straight after which had a very similar feel and it made me remember how much I loved that first time round at the cinema. It seems I like feeling oppressed…maybe it wakes my brain up.