Ten Things: simplifying strategy 👌, visualising the internet 🌐 and swimming 🌊
This time we’ve got lots of pairs: two pieces on getting strategy right, two new ways of looking at the internet, and two stories about swimming. Plus: rage, despair, hate, and some joy as an antidote.
I’ve just launched a newsletter — Ten Things — so I thought I’d share the first few editions as blog posts. I hope the name explains itself. Once a fortnight I’m going to send an email containing ten ‘Things’. Things that I think are interesting, thought-provoking, useful or beautiful. Things from the worlds of content, digital, art, culture and beyond.
You’ll find the second edition below. If you like what you see you can subscribe here.
Thing 1: Simple, brilliant tips for doing strategy right
This post from Anna Shipman summarises some great points on doing strategy right from Russell Davies, former head of strategy at the Government Digital Service.
It’s all common sense, which is why it’s so brilliant. No nonsense, just clear thinking. My favourite part is the reminder that ‘The most important role of a strategy is to tell us what we are not going to do’.
🔗 Link: Russell Davies’s strategy advice (Anna Shipman, 3 min read)
Thing 2: With strategy, less is more
The second part in this pairing is something I wrote about why less is more with strategy.
I talk about how to break strategy down into a simple story/equation and why my ultimate goal — inspired by Julie Walters and Educating Rita — is to write one that’s only five words long.
🔗 Link: With strategy, less is more (Medium, 3 min read)
Thing 3: A rage-inducing Cambridge Analytica documentary
The Great Hack — Netflix’s documentary about Cambridge Analytica and its role in corrupting democracy — is a long but worthwhile watch. It catalogues the many ways the company weaponised data for profit, compromising elections in the US, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the UK’s EU referendum.
I found the focus on Brittany Kaiser, employee turned whistleblower, interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. I’m really fascinated by how she — and other people working at shady tech companies — can be complicit in their activity. I was hoping there’d be an answer but I didn’t find a convincing one.
🔗 Link: The Great Hack (Netflix, 2 hours)
Thing 4: Building a business when the world’s on fire
This post from Jennifer Jeffrey talks about how hard it is to build a business or promote yourself and your work when there’s so many terrible things going on in the world.
Jennifer’s acknowledgement that putting yourself out there can feel crass and trivial in times like these really resonated with me. I also like her suggestions for how you can counter this feeling and combine activism/action with self-promotion.
🔗 Link: It’s hard to build a business when the world is on fire (Medium, 5 min read)
Thing 5: the sad, unintentional birth of hate site 8Chan
Next up is an interesting/harrowing long read about 8Chan and its founder Fredrick Brennan. The story is an in-depth look at how Brennan built 8Chan, never imagining it would grow to be ‘one of the most dangerous sites on the internet — a place with a structure that made it a perfect petri-dish for violent misogyny and all kinds of hateful ideologies to germinate and spread’.
I also wanted to highlight Tortoise, which produced and published the story. Tortoise is a new venture from James Harding, former news director at the BBC and editor of the Times. It’s focused on slow news — ‘Not the news as it happens, but when it’s ready’ — an interesting antidote to broader news culture right now.
🔗 Link: Destroyer of Worlds (Tortoise, 10 min read)
Thing 6: what does the internet look like in India and Cuba?
This visualisation from The Guardian shows you what the internet looks like in other countries.
It’s a fun and informative experience, taking you from India where WhatsApp *is* the internet because its use of voice, video and images makes it more accessible, to Cuba where you get a ‘weekly packet’ of content delivered on a flash drive to find a way around censorship and connectivity issues.
🔗 Link: The internet, but not as we know it (The Guardian, 7 min read)
Thing 7: Photographing the internet
A totally different way of visualising the internet comes from photographer Andy Sewell.
Andy’s photographs focus on the places where the cables that carry the internet are concentrated, often on coastlines where undersea cables come up from the ocean floor and onto land. With wifi and mobile internet it’s easy to lose site of the reality that the internet is a series of physical cables, and I like the way Andy brings it back into view. I also love the wording ‘known and strange things pass’ — it’s such a poetic way of describing what those cables do.
🔗 Link: Known and strange things pass (Andy Sewell, 5 min read)
Thing 8: Salt Water and sea bathing
Continuing with a watery theme, I’m working on a series of pictures loosely themed around sea swimming/bathing called Salt Water.
They’re taken on an old waterproof Canon Sure Shot A1 that I got on eBay and Fuji Superia film. Shooting film is fun and frustrating — I have no clue how they’ll turn out when I press the shutter. I’m working on collecting the photos into a zine, which should be available to buy in a few weeks’ time — let me know if you’d like one.
🔗 Link: Salt Water (Lauren Pope, 3 min read)
Thing 9: A short story about a swimming pool
From the sea to the pool; next up is a gripping, beautifully written (and translated) story about swimming by Hsu Yu-Chen.
I don’t read many short stories, but I loved how simple and atmospheric this was. It’s perfect for a few minutes of escapism while you have a cuppa.
🔗 Link: The Swimming Pool (The Offing, 7 min read)
Thing 10: Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Manchester
Finally, an old video of the magnificent Sister Rosetta Tharpe, ‘godmother of rock-and-roll’, playing Didn’t It Rain in Chorlton railway station in 1964.
This is truly joyous four minutes of music which I found thanks to the amazing Brainpickings. I’ve watched it about five times this week and hope you like it as much as I do.