Category Archives: Blogging

Top 5 posts on toddmgreen.com in 2015

Here are the top five new posts from this site this year:

  1. How One Tiny Text Tweak Helped Me Meet My Wife 
  2. What I learnt from tracking my body fat % every day for six months
  3. One call away from Cambridge
  4. BBC
  5. Three Years of Running Data: 1,153km with Nike+ and Mind

#1 is quite remarkable – it was only live for a few days! But I posted it on Medium too, shared it with work friends, and – well – it’s a pretty compelling headline…

This blog is 5 years old tomorrow. Thanks for reading. See you next year :)

~ Todd

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Image: Erin Quigley

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What makes a popular post on toddmgreen.com?

Frog

Tomorrow I’ll publish the top 5 list for 2015. If I look at that list next to the top lists for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, some patterns emerge.

The most popular posts have at least one of the following:

The first group are my favourite. Those are the ones I see as really adding something to the world – offering an unusual insight based on an unusual experience.

I’m just finishing a month of very frequent posts: 31 in 31 days in December. That seems to have been totally the wrong strategy. Much better, in fact, to write deeper posts even though that means publishing less often.

More on that to follow. Cheers!

~ Todd

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Image: delfi de la Rua

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Blog #10, I guess I just like writing…

This is my tenth blog – I guess I like just writing…

Those blogs have covered many topics:

  • Discovering something new (art attack!)
  • Uncovering my own tastes (Cool Design Scrapbook, inspired by Sanna Annukka’s artwork for Keane’s album Under The Iron Sea)
  • Poems (Occasional Haikus – now defunct)
  • Bad jokes (Glutton for Pun-ishment- now defunct)
  • Posting something cool once a week (toddmgreen time machine)
  • Something I knew very little about (ebooks – now defunct) – silly idea
  • A blog which I think would be great, but for which I’ve only ever done draft posts (Project Post-Mortems – never launched)
  • Training for a new sport (The Ping-Pong Notebook – now defunct)
  • A co-authored blog about our wedding (Todd and Emma are getting married!)
  • And then I have the one where you’re reading this, labelled ‘occasionally interesting’ – on which I have written about many things personal, professional and pseudo-philosophical…

This is my longest-running blog. It’s the one I’m most proud of. And it’s 5 years old on 1 January! Over the next couple of days I’ll reflect on which posts people seem to have enjoyed the most.

Thanks for reading :)

~ Todd

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A Year In Design

I’m no designer, and I felt that I didn’t have a strong sense of what kind of thing appealed to me.

So I spent a year aim collecting examples of designs I liked, then teased out the threads that connected the ones I liked most.

Below is the final post of the project. It summarises what I found and what I learnt. The full project is here: Cool Design Scrapbook on Tumblr.

Enjoy!

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This is one of my favourite designs. It’s an ad for cognac by Otard Dupuy & Co, dating back to 1910.

I’ve come across individual images like this that I wouldn’t otherwise have found. But looking back through the posts (this is #70), I can see that a handful of themes have emerged.

The idea of this final post is to pick out three of those themes, and the designs that best embody them.

Theme 1: Stark dark/light contrasts

I wrote several times about dark text or images on a light background. The contrast of colours, and the space around the focus of the design, make a real impression on me.

You can see this in the posts about Symonds CiderKuala Lumpur Dreaming, and The Lion King:

Theme 2: Simplified images

I’ve found a number of designs in which simplifying the subject increases its power.

The most recent was my favourite Christmas card; before that I wrote about Michael Schwab and George Butler’s travel sketch blog:

Theme 3: Retro styling

Some of my favourite posts have involved modern references to retro designs.

A couple of my earliest posts featured adverts or travel posters from the first half of the 20th century. But I prefer the latter-day versions – like Cheddar Ales, the Ping Pong Parlour, and Bertelli’s beautiful bikes.

My final word, though, goes to Sanna Annukka, whose designs for Keane’s Under The Iron Sea album were the spark for this blog.

My post on the artwork for that album can be found here. I thought it appropriate that her pictures, having been the first to appear on this blog, should also be the last.

If you’re interested in what I’m doing next, you can follow @toddmgreen on Twitter.

Thanks for reading.

~ Todd

Embrace, the darkness

There must be a time

Between the well-meaning

When the good will come out

And start the healing

I listened to The Good Will Out – Embrace’s debut album – an awful lot over the past (yikes!) 17 years. I even spent summer 2003 detuning and retuning the bottom E strong on my acoustic so that I could play Fireworks over and over again. 

Danny McNamara is not a great singer tunewise but there’s a lot of emotional depth in his voice, and that has always been good enough for me. 

But – where did that depth come from? I never really stopped to think. 

Now I know, thanks to a post by McNamara from a little while back. Turns out he had terrible PTSD when he was younger.
It makes me think of the kids at school who had a hard time because of something outside of the classroom (troubles at home, in their bodies, or in their heads). Watching Educating Yorkshire as an adult, it’s clear to see that some kids are acting up at school because of a tough home life. But when you’re there, sat next to them in the classroom or avoiding them in the corridor, you just don’t see or perceive those issues. 

McNamara didn’t talk about his PTSD for a long time because he feared it would give the songs a concrete meaning, rather than allowing each listener their own truth. 

After 17 years, I know my truths for each of those songs. It’s great to finally know his too. 

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I’m writing a lot about music at the moment, albeit for no apparent reason. For more posts like this, follow me on Twitter

Why is academia so slow?

In short: academics don’t care. 

Why should they?

Incentives are powerful and for academics, speed is not incentivised.

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I worked on an academic paper for 18 months with my co-author, then we submitted it to a journal and it took three months to get a reply, then we took one month to make some fixes, then it was published two months later. Two years in total!

How can academic publishing possibly be so slow? And how can it afford to be slow in fields like the one I’m interested in – media/tech – which changes three times a day and shifts substantially several times a year?

I wanted to know, so I asked.

Five media academics gave me the same answer (‘That’s just the way it is’), but the sixth told me something different:

Academics don’t care about publishing fast. We aren’t trying to get products to market, unlike you guys in industry. We’re working to a different timescale – identifying long-term changes is the aim, and getting published is the key to success. Yes, academic publishing is slow. But so what? Academics don’t need to be first, so we don’t need to be fast. So in a sense we just don’t care.

So long as the academic reward system is tied to publishing through traditional channels, there’s little incentive for academics to change. Mystery solved. But a deeper problem remains.

In media/tech, the field in which I work and in which I was researching, academia has almost no voice.

Academics typically have access to less information, less context and less expertise than the practitioners about whom they write. And the world turns fast, so much of what they do produce is either hard to apply or out of date.

This is a terrible shame. Some of the brilliant academics I have worked with wield powerful models and frameworks, can draw connections across multiple disciplines, and can identify and explore patterns hidden to the fast-paced industrial worker bees. 

So the near-absence of academic work in much of the media/tech industry is a great loss. 

The challenge is not just one of speed. Relationships, distribution, access to information, and many other obstacles remain. But the result is a painful distance between academia and industry. 

John Sutherland wrote a great editorial on this in The Computer Games Journal. The title sums it up:

Yes, you did it, I read it, but does it *mean* anything?

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Konked out

An Amazon review of Konk, a double album by The Kooks:

They shouldn’t have made the 2-disc edition. You don’t have to release every sh*t you ever recorded.

Sounds familiar? Less is more. Quality over quantity. Etc. 

But it’s more complex than that. Sometimes quantity is better. The Mail Online has >100 journalists pumping out celebrity gossip stories, because those drive the pageviews which in turn bring the ad revenue. For the Mail, maybe adding quantity is smarter than adding quality. 

I’m very interested in these grey areas. Blanket statements hide the nuances.

I just finished a book called Turn The Ship Around!. A US Navy commander writes about introducing a ‘leader-leader’ model (instead of the traditional ‘leader-follower’ model) on his submarine. It’s a good book, all very empowering and life-affirming – but there is not a lot of grey.

When should you hold back from empowering staff?

How do you manage accountability when responsibility is so thoroughly delegated?

In what circumstances are the staff, not the system, seen to be the problem?

We rate pretty highly in leader-leader coverage in the teams I have worked in. But I find it very hard to believe that I have all the solutions already latent inside of me, or that if something goes wrong, all that’s needed is a little more empowerment. It sounds like the supposed disaster emerging at Zappos under holacracy. And very little consideration of these grey areas appears in the book. 

Next time you hear one of these truisms – less is more, quality over quantity – just stop for a minute. Is it really true?

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For more untruisms, find me on Twitter.

The Shipping Forecast: One post per day in December

Emma was asking me how I write blog posts. As you can see, I like to dress up smart.

But once I’m ready, I’ll write a draft as quick as I can. Rough and ready – get to the end as soon as possible.

Quick drafting makes it easier to make the post coherent, and reduces the risk of being disturbed when you’re in the moment. 

But it’s a style thing too. My best posts are the ones that ebb and flow – shifting from stream of consciousness to stop/consider and back again. So doing the first draft fast helps.

But now I’ve got out of the habit of actually shipping these posts. So here’s a challenge: one post per day in December. 

This is day one. 

Expect a mixture of posts: short and long, observation and reflection… good and bad. Stay tuned via @toddmgreen on Twitter.

Cheers! ~ Todd

Top 5 posts on toddmgreen.com – 2014 edition

I am a poure dyuel, and my name ys Tytyvyllus … I muste eche day … brynge my master a thousande pokes full of faylynges, and of neglygences in syllables and wordes.

This poor devil is Titivillus, the patron demon of scribes. He works on behalf of Satan, introducing errors into scribes’ manuscripts.

This must have kept him busy, for scribal errors took many forms:

  • Errors of omission:
    • Homeoteleuton: the scribe paused, then resumed writing but skipped ahead because of the similarity of the endings of two lines, thereby leaving out a passage
    • Homeoarchy: skipping ahead because of the similarity of the beginnings of two lines
    • Haplography: copying once what appeared in the exemplar twice (e.g. “pewterer” reduced to “pewter,” or “that that” reduced to “that”)
  • Errors of addition:
    • Dittography: mechanical repetition, by trick of memory (“that that” when original had only “that”)
    • Contamination: extraneous element from elsewhere appears on the page
  • Errors of transposition:
    • Metathesis: reversing letters, words, or phrases
  • Errors of alteration:
    • Unwitting: accidental mistranscription; e.g. the First Folio Anthony and Cleopatra V.ii.87 gives “an Antonie twas” where Shakespeare had written “an autumn twas”
    • Deliberate: the scribe acts as editor to correct and improve the original (naughty scribe)

Manuscripts copied by scribes were the main form of transmission of ancient works of literature and science. Errors were therefore a serious matter – a tonsured teenager might mangle the words of Sophocles or Eusebius.

No doubt I have made all of these errors (and invented some new ones) since starting this blog in 2011. But at this time of year I like to offer you, dear reader, a short list of the most popular posts published in the past 12 months.

Here goes:

1. I tracked every penny I spent for one year. Here’s what I learnt. (720 views)

2. 10 surprising discoveries during my first marathon (148 views)

3. How to get a bargain on a new iPhone (and a free cost calculator) (139 views)

4. Leaving West Ealing (119 views)

5. What is the highest circulation magazine in the world? (114 views)

So, posts written on the basis of hard-won experience and research triumphed… I suppose I should ditch my clickbait-listicle content strategy for 2015.

This is post #27 for the year, so I averaged one post every two weeks. In 2014 this blog had 6,789 views, which is +10% up on 2013. Thank you for reading! Do sign up for posts by email, or follow me on Twitter for new & old posts, plus a bunch of other nonsense.

And adieu to you, Titivillus – we shall meet again in 2015!

~ Todd

My German TV debut (3.1m YouTube views and counting)

I was on German TV in a police comedy sketch show, and the clip now has over 3 million views on YouTube!

The show was called Alles In Ordnung? (Is Everything In Order?), and it ran on ProSieben from 2005-06. It was pretty cool, a very dry comedy in which useless police officers would bumble through serious and not so serious incidents, from shoot-outs to health & safety infringements.

The clip went viral because it featured the game Counterstrike. Two police officers had been called to a block of flats where residents had heard shots being fired. The officers busted into a flat, only to find three students playing Counterstrike, a multiplayer shoot-em-up game, at full volume.

I was one of the students. I’d only just arrived in Germany, so my language skills were, well… still developing. It’s pretty clear at times in the clip that I don’t understand what the thickly-accented officers are saying to me – e.g. at 0:40 in the video when I look extremely confused by what people are saying to me.

The students’ flat was a mess. Curtains drawn, covered in empty beer cans and pizza boxes, and stinking because we were meant to look like we hadn’t had a shower for days. One of the original guys didn’t turn up, so I was asked to stand in. I went to the costume/make-up lady and asked: “What do we need to do to make me look right for the part?“. She looked me up and down: “No need to do anything, you’re good to go on.”

That was during my first attempt to grow a beard. There’s still some work to do there, but back in 2006 I had no idea that beard trimmers even existed – I had clumps missing where I’d been over-zealous with the nail scissors.

I’ve only just passed 20k views on this blog, so it may be some time before I match the 3.1m views on that YouTube video. But I wanted to write this post to say thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.

~ Todd