What makes a popular post on toddmgreen.com?


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


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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The First Time I Nearly Died

The first time I almost died was in summer 2002, aged 19, when I nearly fell off a waterfall on the Isle of Arran.

My friend Ben and I had scrambled up the side in shorts and flip-flops and we were about 140 feet up. We were about to leave but I wanted to have one more look over the exhilarating edge.

At the edge itself was a rocky ledge about two feet deep, and to get down to it you had to lower yourself about five feet down off the huge shelf where we’d been standing. The water wasn’t flowing fast, and we’d even been able to swim in a natural pool that had formed in the rock of the main shelf.

So I lowered myself gently down, but for some reason I let myself fall the last 6 inches down onto the ledge. As I landed I slipped – my £3 flip-flops did not have a lot of grip – but thankfully I slipped sideways rather than forwards.

Sideways meant I landed with a crash on my left arm and ribs. Forwards would have meant plunging down the 140 foot waterfall, and into oblivion.

I lay there for a moment, stunned by the blow to my side and by the narrowness of my escape. My face was less than 6 inches from the edge of the waterfall, and I stared downwards into the void and at the water spilling past and over me into it.

For six months I would wake up in the middle of the night with that flashback in my head: staring over the edge of the waterfall where I had nearly died.

Life lesson: never buy cheap flip-flops.


Photo: Fotolia/AP

If you go…

If you go [with a break], you can either win or not win. If you don’t go for it, you definitely won’t win.

– Jens Voigt, cyclist


Image: Alex Anlicker

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How One Tiny Text Tweak Helped Me Meet My Wife

After dating random friends of friends for a year, I decided to get serious.

How can I increase the chances of finding someone I really like?

Time to try internet dating. Guardian Soulmates.

Spent a couple of hours looking all sorts of profiles (girls and boys) to see how people used the site, and what stood out.

Found that 80% of guys wrote essentially the same thing:

I like going out with friends, but I also like staying in with a DVD and a bottle of wine. I like going to gigs and playing [sport]. I like going on holiday to exotic places. My friends tell me I have a good sense of humour. I enjoy [hobby] in my spare time.

Around that time I watched a Peep Show episode in which Mark is mocking bland dating profiles:

I enjoy breathing air and turning protein into muscle energy.

One thing that stood out in several profiles was when some humour showed through. So I decided to write a spoof of all the boring profiles by combining the generic spiel with the Peep Show joke:

I like going out with friends, but I also like staying in with a DVD and a bottle of wine. I like going to gigs and playing tennis. I like going on holiday to exotic places. My friends tell me I have a good sense of humour. I enjoy playing guitar in my spare time. I enjoy breathing air and turning protein into muscle energy.

Then – once my prospective ladyfriend had been seduced by my witty spoof first paragraph, I would hit them with the real sizzle – something more unique and interesting. I can’t recall the whole thing but at the time I was working in TV, so at least I had a cool first line:

I make up games and gameshows for a living, but…

A celebratory sip of beer, then put the profile live and wait to be covered in messages…

Still waiting one week later…

No messages.

I went back to the site and scrolled through the list of suggested matches. Hmm, hard to get to know them when there’s not much text in the search results…

Ah. I had hidden the unique, personal stuff behind a generic first paragraph. The search results view showed so little text that even my Peep Show joke was not visible. I counted characters and worked out that the text I appeared with in anyone’s search results would be:

I like going out with friends, but I also like staying in with a DVD and a bottle of wine. I like going to gigs and…


So I cut the whole first paragraph and started off with the games and gameshows instead. One small text tweak.

A few days later, I had met my wife-to-be.


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Got a new phone for Christmas? Impress your friends with these emoticons from the year 2000

In the year 2000 I got my first mobile and my friend Beth got me this book.

The intro tells new phone owners why the book will be useful:

The sub-text of your words, acronyms or abbreviations will become crystal clear to anyone reading them if you punctuate your messages with emoticons, whenever and wherever you feel like it.

I rediscovered the book this week and now I’m the sickest yoof on the block.

So turn off your Westlife minidisc, put your Razor Scooter back in the box, pick up the phone you wish was really a Nokia 3310, and make like it’s Y2K:

*8=(:      I am a blithering idiot

%+{        I was the loser of a fight

:^Y      I turn my poker face away

o’!       I am feeling pretty grim (profile)

:-”     I am whistling casually

*L*    I am drunk (sideways)

%-<|>     I am drunk with laughter

%*@:-(    I am hungover with a headache

(,’%/)    I have slept too long on one side

:-L    I have a blank expression with a cigarette or pipe

===:[OO’]>:=== I have been railroaded

#!^~/      I am kissing while wearing shades (profile)

(><)      I am anally retentive

When you want to squeeze a pun in there too:

>–COD     I am ‘floundering’ for something to say

When you’re kicking it old school:

g-)      I am wearing pince-nez glasses

When you needed Instagram but only had SMS:

O-G-<     Me, me, me (pointing to self)

:-)-8     I am a big girl

:-)^<    I am a big boy

(:-{~    I am bearded

:-)##     I am seriously bearded

:-(>~     I just washed my goatee, I can’t do a thing with it

{:-)     I am wearing a toupee

}:-(     My toupee is at risk from a high wind

When you want people to focus a bit lower down:

:-)   .     I have an innie belly button

:-)   ,     I have an outie belly button

{:-| 8()>     You are going to be a father!

When you have a mythical revelation to make:

:-[    I am a vampire

:-E    I am a buck-toothed vampire

<*(:-?    Wizard who doesn’t know the answer

+-:-)     I am the Pope

When your tech is stuck in the wrong time:

[:-)     I am wearing a Walkman

When you need to cut someone down to size:

:-8(     Condescending stare…

i-=<***i     Caution: I have a flame thrower

When the animal instinct is strong:

<:3 )~~~     Mouse

#B<>     A duck with a spiky haircut and Ray-Bans, quacking

:-D*     I am laughing so hard that I did not notice that a 5-legged spider is hanging from my lip

>8-O-(&)     Message about/from someone who has just realised they have tapeworm

And let’s finish with a few seasonal ones:

*|:^)(.)(…)     Snowman

<:>==     Turkey

*<|<|<|=    Christmas tree

Got all that? Gr8. 

Merry Christmas! *<:-)

~ Todd


I couldn’t find the book for sale on the original creator’s site (Michael O’Mara books), but it is still available second-hand on Amazon (and probably elsewhere) – see here.

Thanks to Michael O’Mara for such a treat!

Finish Theodosian Code before golf!

I found my 2003/04 diary.

On 23 December:

Finish Theodosian Code before golf!

The Theodosian Code is a late Roman legal text. It’s a great source – I almost did a PhD on it. But it needed to be finished before I played golf with Nick.

An old diary is a time machine. But when you arrive in that former age, not everything has changed.

In 2003/04 I was in my final year at Oxford. But it was not a life of pure pseudo-academic splendour. In the same week I had:

  • White tie ball at New College (26 June)
  • Start work as a pot washer in a restaurant back home (30 June)

Juxtapositions like this – Roman law and golf, posh decadence and pot washing – occur throughout.

There are many things in there that feel a very long time ago – History lecture times (3x per week in term), Masters application deadlines (mostly 15 Jan), family events with long-passed relatives (late April),  and cooking plans with long-lost girlfriends (ok, I wasn’t exactly a player… it was one cooking plan with one long-lost girlfriend – 6 April).

But what stands out most are the things that have not changed, even 12 years later.

The same fantasy football league is still going strong, and we even have a trophy engraved with the winners’ names these days.

And I still hang out as much as possible with the same friends whose 20th and 21st birthdays we celebrated back then.

The world keeps turning. But not everything has to change.


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God jul!

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.



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

One call away from Cambridge

I had a fully-funded Masters offer from Cambridge, but I had to achieve a certain score in my History finals in order to get in.

I didn’t hit the required mark (missed by 2%). So I rang around the other universities on my list, and managed to get into Nottingham – a fantastic place in its own right, and in many ways a more suitable place for me at that time.

A year later, I bumped into the guy who would have been my supervisor at Cambridge and told him this story.

He was shocked: “Why on earth didn’t you call and ask if you could come anyway?”.

Good question. Back then it seemed obvious – someone else set the rules, so I played by them…

Ten years later, I don’t really believe in accepting parameters set by other people. I was told directly by senior colleagues that I had no chance of success when considering my last two jobs. I’m ten years older and maybe twenty years more bloody-minded :)

I may not have gone to Cambridge, but I did learn an awful lot.


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Late night radio

Every night from age 6 to age 23 I listened to the radio as I went to sleep.

I swung silent punches through Vegas boxing matches on BBC R5. I knew all the words to Caesar’s catchy theme tune on TalkSport. I had nightmares after listening to murder stories on LBC.

The beautiful thing about radio is the connection between listener and presenter. The best make it feel personal. They’re talking only to you.

But this was a concern in the 1930s and 40s: 

Thinkers who pondered broadcasting were attentive to the potential for interchange within large scale communication… Many were fascinated and alarmed by radio’s apparent intimacy, its penetration of private spaces, and its ability to stage dialogues and personal relationships with listeners. The question was often less how radio amassed audiences than how it individualised them.

Radio was dangerous. Same criticisms came later for TV, computers and smartphones. It’s sad to sneer at these concerns. Radio was dangerous because of its power to reach into the mind of the listener and speak to their soul.

So I’ve started some experiments with podcasting (digital radio, it’s the same thing). Nothing consistently great so far but the feeling of connection, of rawness, of direct emotion – that is what you can feel in the best moments. That’s the power, that’s the danger. That’s real radio.


Quote: Peters, J.D. (1996), ‘Institutional sources of intellectual poverty in communication research’, Communication Research 13(4): 527-559, found in Napoli, P.M. (2010), ‘Revisiting ‘mass communication’ and the ‘work’ of the audience in the new media environment’, Media, Culture & Society 32(3) 505-516.

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