Category Archives: Spare-time Projects

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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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

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.

Oasis – Cigarettes & Alcohol – 20 years old today

Cigarettes & Alcohol was released on 10 October 1994 – so the best song ever turns 20 years old today.

I’ve tried a few approaches in drafting this post but I can’t take myself seriously as a music critic, so here goes:

THIS SONG FUCKING ROCKS.

I used to actually stop myself from listening to Oasis on the morning of exams when I was at school, because I lost motivation if I had lines like: “Is it worth the aggravation / To find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for” going round my head.

Twenty years later it has a different meaning for me. Now I hear “You gotta make it happen” on repeat after listening to it, and this weekend when it came on my headphones as I got close to a half marathon finish, I got a proper rush and burned up the hill to the line.

To celebrate the song’s birthday in my own little way, I wanted to share a side project with you.

I’ve been working on a directory site for all the Oasis B-sides, because I really believe that some of the stuff that didn’t make the early albums is 10x better than most of the top-charting singles from the same era.

I’ve only added the Definitely Maybe B-sides so far, but here are three absolute tunes to start off with:

Cloudburst – moody rocker, builds like a thunderstorm

D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman? – acoustic sing-song with a wistful message

I Will Believe (Live) – simple simple simple demo-style tune, great riff, very early recording

And finally – here’s the link to the prototype site:

oasisbsides.com (URL headshot baby!)

It’s still in alpha, so please do send me your thoughts. And more importantly: discover and enjoy!

~ Todd

Us and the Universe

We are the universe experiencing itself

–Carl Sagan

So, what did you do this weekend?

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Image from Nick Sagan’s blog. Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

LAUNCH – mediademic

I am a time traveller!

I went to an academic conference this summer and it was like going back to 2010. All the talk was of cookies, CRM, and targeted advertising… academic discourse can be little behind the times.

But there is loads of really interesting stuff to be found in academia too – like the journal article that helped me understand the strange user acquisition patterns in Scoreboard, and the quote I found in another article about Norwegians who liked to text in to TV shows that told me something new about viewers’ motivations.

And while I don’t want to be a full-time academic, I don’t want to be a full-time industry worker either if it means I don’t get to do academia too.

So I’ve decided to try to bridge the gap. I taught a course at a university last year, did a bunch of one-off lectures, and wrote an article that I hope will soon be published in a journal. But that isn’t quite enough – so I’m starting a new blog alongside this one.

It’s called mediademic – i.e. media + academia. In each post I look at something academic – an article, an essay, an idea – and analyse it in the context of my own experience in industry.

Academia offers depth and complexity, but sometimes it is dangerously disconnected from industry. Life in the media industry is fun and moves fast, but it can be difficult to see longer-term patterns or to think more deeply about what you’re working on.

Mediademic is my attempt to bridge the gap between the theory and the practice. I hope to do so in way that illuminates a little of both.

We’ll see :)

Check it out now – nine posts up so far – at mediademicblog.com

Monk-ey business

The bones of four thousand dead friars line the walls of this Capuchin Crypt in Rome.

They want to remind visitors of the brevity of life on Earth:

We were like you once. Soon you will be like us.

Cheery stuff, thanks lads! There’s lots of this kind of thing around – ‘Do it now, don’t wait’ / ‘Carpe diem’ / ‘YOLO baby!’.

It’s easy to scoff, because scoffing is easier than acknowledging it’s true. Tick-tock, time keeps marching on. Time never comes to an end, but you and I will.

The consequences of embracing this idea are unsettling: every second is precious, so every second is under pressure.

But this quickly becomes impractical. This had better be the best shit of my life!

The feeling of living on limited time might put getting older into perspective. Those years ain’t coming back, and my inevitable demise draws ever nearer.

But in the past month I’ve started a new blog, had a mad idea for a pizza festival, and put my name to a funding proposal for a digital history project at a London university.

So long as things like that keep happening, you’re all good. It’s only when they stop that you notice the time passing.

Today’s my 30th birthday. Can’t hear a ticking sound just yet…

Did you make anything today?

Isaac Asimov wrote and edited over 500 books, plus 90,000 letters and postcards.

Did you make anything today?

Critics

Imagine having your work crushed by Wolfgang Pauli (Nobel Prize-winning physicist):

[That’s] so bad, it’s not even wrong

Thankfully I don’t know many Nobel Prize-winning physicists. Tough crowd.

There are plenty of other critics around – people who think my ideas are silly, or that my projects are dumb, or that my blog posts are crap (well, maybe those guys have a point).

But the worst critics aren’t the physicists or the mockers or anyone else I know.

The worst critics are the imaginary ones. The ones that live only in my head. They’re the ones who sometimes stop me from writing, or from contacting people I admire, or from singing too loudly in the flat whilst playing guitar.

The critics in my head are the ones who can never be silenced completely. They never seem to be impressed. They never listen to reason.

The worst critics are the ones who don’t even exist.

And therein lies their weakness – the way to beat them.

If they don’t exist, the bastards can be ignored.