Hidden stress

I realised last year that I have two very different reactions to stress.

The first one – the most common and obvious reaction – is to become visibly and obviously agitated. I start speaking about twice as fast, my voice goes up the best part of an octave, and I become flustered and flushed. Visibly and unmistakably stressed. You know what stress looks like. It’s not nice to feel it and it’s not fun to be around.

My second stress reaction is quite different. I disengage. I mentally withdraw from things that are getting to me.

Continue reading Hidden stress…

Things tags: Emoji, frogs and GTD contexts

I’ve been using Things as my GTD app of choice for quite a long time now. In addition to experimenting with a physical progress meter, I’ve also been fiddling around with the tags.

Using Emoji in Things tags

Things tags

And here are all of my tags and their shortcuts.

Mark Twain suggested that we “eat a live frog in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.” During my daily review I try to pick out the one thing I really don’t want to do but really should do first.

Of the priority tags, the only one I use a lot is the high priority tag (the little red circle) to help me spot the urgent/important stuff.

Although I spent far too long making this look pretty, it was really just whittling while I was thinking about contexts. Rather than tagging things according to the project (which Things handles anyway) or type of activity (which isn’t very helpful), I’m finding it useful to be able to pick out actions according to the situation and tools I have to hand. What can I do while I’m on the train? If I’m in the mood to make some phone calls, what do I need to do? What can I do that will only take 5 minutes? That sort of thing.

Tagging be people and agendas is useful too. In preparing for regular meetings, or time with certain people, it’s great to be able to quickly pull out relevant things that I need to cover.

There are some ‘Waiting for…’ tags too, useful when something has been delegated but still needs to be kept an eye on. Having different flavours means I can check the ‘chase’ ones daily and the others less frequently (usually weekly, at the moment).

You’ll also notice that absolutely everything has a keyboard shortcut. When I’m using a computer, and I mean really using a computer, I don’t like to switch between using keyboard and trackpad and I always want to be able to everything I can with keyboard shortcuts. For example: tagging actions without having to skip a beat.

Moving on from W+K

Today is my last day at W+K London.

Starting next week, I join the Government Digital Service. You might already have heard of GDS and the single government domain (GOV.UK beta) project, which is rather exciting. If not, here’s Danny O’Brien writing about poacher turned gamekeeper, Tom Loosemore, which should set the scene nicely.

I’m joining a brilliant department. They’ve been bringing in some seriously good developers and building an exciting multi-disciplinary team. Most recently, Ben Terrett (also ex W+K) joined as Head of Design, and Russell Davies is now lending a hand too. Exciting times.

How is it that *The Government* is one I the most exciting start-ups in Britain right now? #govuk

What will I be doing? Well, I’ll be product manager for the Innovation team. Last year they launched the e-petitions site, which in its first 100 days received an impressive 18 signatures per minute. I hope to work on some similarly interesting problems and make some interesting and useful things. There’s a lot to do, and having fun with government services is an opportunity too good to miss.

Leaving W+K was a difficult decision though. Especially because I know that I’ll miss it, and the people there, very much. Leaving after 14 months, just when things are finally falling in to place and I feel at home, feels like a very strange thing to do. On the other hand, it’s good to be leaving on a high. Things have never been better. It’s been a privilege to work with such amazing people on such a wide range of projects, from the Kaiser Chiefs album launch to Cravendale’s ‘cats with thumbs’ and everything in between. There are some seriously good things coming up later this year too.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year-and-a-bit, and I learned more from my mistakes than the things I got right. Perhaps the thing that stuck with me most was some  advice for new joiners that I read on my first day, which said, if you are wondering whose job it is, it’s probably yours.

When Ben left W+K, he wrote about what makes W+K great. Like the BBC and IBM before that, it’s a place I’ll remember fondly, full of people I’ll miss seeing around.

Goodbye, W+K. Hello, GDS.

Little Big Planets

Today, I’ve mostly been making polar panoramas. They please me greatly. Thanks to Dirk Paessler for a great tutorial.

Planet London

Great balls of grass   Planet Portugal

Planet San Francisco   New York Centauri

Moving on from the BBC

I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted the position of Head of Emerging Platforms at Wieden+Kennedy London, where I start on the 1st of December.

Wieden+Kennedy are an advertising agency with an amazing track record. You’ll know them for Honda ‘Cog’, Nokia ‘Dot’, Nike ‘Write the Future’ and (of course) lots more. Recently, you might have noticed them doing some rather interesting work with things like Nike Grid and ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ for Old Spice. Clearly a company with big ideas and, I was happy to learn, a desire to get even deeper into helping their clients explore what’s next.

Joining Wieden + Kennedy is an incredibly exciting opportunity. I’ll be building on my experience of heading up social media at BBC Vision, and am looking forward to helping W+K continue their journey of learning how to communicate in new and inventive ways which reach and excite people. Joining the London office and getting to work with the amazing talents in both the planning and creative teams is going to be an awful lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get started.

While in many ways the decision to leave the BBC was a relatively easy one, I’m still going to miss it greatly. It’s been two-and-a-bit years since I joined, and in that time I’ve been fortunate to have worked on some brilliant projects with an amazing range of clever and creative people.

The small but perfectly formed social media team in Vision which I built from scratch probably represents my biggest achievement. They’re all amazing, and the way they support BBC Vision (both the multiplatform teams and increasingly the TV types themselves in Vision Productions) is fantastic. The nice things people say about me these days are usually because of them. They de-mystify and de-risk the strange world of ‘social media’ for the BBC every day, making sure it’s more than just a scary unknowable concept or a meaningless buzzword, and they do this with and for the people who work on some of the most well known TV brands in the UK. Rowan, Fiona, Dan and Gary (and Kat, who recently moved in to a new role in BBC R&D) you are my heroes and I’ll miss having you around to make me look good.

I won’t list all of the (literally hundreds) of projects I’ve been involved with since I joined, but Buzz, the BBC TV Blog and Games Grid deserve a special mention. Though in all three cases the credit is due to others, I’m more delighted than I can express to have had responsibility for them. Thanks everyone, and good luck with the future.

What are those dots anyway?

It’s been my privilege to have worked with and for some amazing people at the BBC. As you’ll know, it’s an organisation in the middle of some difficult times at the moment, not least in defining the scope of its mission online. I hope its leadership will be able to act bravely and set a clear direction that matches the breadth of the BBC’s charter in delivering its public purposes as well as the ambition and creativity of its staff.

By the way, I should be clear: this isn’t redundancy and my role at the BBC isn’t going away when I leave. Next month, someone else will get to have all the fun – and of course the frustrations – that I do now. And no doubt they’ll have their own ways of doing things. Probably better ones. :-)

Goodbye, BBC. Hello, W+K.

BAFTA Film Awards 2010

I was fortunate enough to be invited to help out the BAFTA online team during the Film Awards on Sunday. I spent the afternoon and evening tweeting as @baftaonline and helping their team keep their Facebook page updated.

Initially, I was mainly sharing photos from the red carpet, which meant wandering around with an ‘access all areas’ pass and trying grab pictures of the buildup while staying (unsuccessfully) out of the way of various live news cameras. Here are a handful of the photos I uploaded to Twitpic during the afternoon.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I was only slightly hampered by not having much of an idea of who everyone was, and during the busiest time on the red carpet it was a struggle to get a photo and tweet everything. Fortunately, the Bafta/BBC TV crew I was embedded with were very helpful in confirming names of people I was unsure of, etc. Conscious of a fast-depleting iPhone battery, I was alternating between an iPhone and my Canon camera, grabbing snaps and video of whatever looked interesting.

Red Carpet Kimberley Walsh Guy Pearce on the Red Carpet James Cameron on the Red Carpet Andy Serkis on the Red Carpet Edith gets her make up touched up

Once the ceremony began, I went upstairs to the media room where I sat with the BAFTA online team watching the ceremony and backstage interviews live. I was updating their Twitter and Facebook presences with the award winners as they were announced and the response to these live updates was overwhelmingly positive. Rob (BAFTA’s online editor) had proposed a very clean, cut down style for the announcements which worked really well for giving it an official, definitive tone. Keeping it short meant it was more likely to be retweeted too.


During the ceremony, I had a list of who was announcing what, and had to fill in the blanks with the winner as they were announced, tweeting and updating Facebook as quickly as possible. This was pretty stressful, though obviously also an awful lot of fun. I soon found a rhythm and was pleased to be using a laptop where I could quickly copy and paste blocks of text between various windows. The iPhone is nice, but it would suck for this sort of work.

Backstage Carey Mulligan Backstage Kristen Stewart Backstage Backstage

There was some frustration, among people watching on TV, that the twitter stream was acting as a ‘spoiler’ for the event (though I should point out this was massively outweighed by vast numbers of people expressing supportive, grateful thanks for the instant updates). I think the call (which was, of course, BAFTA’s to make) to announce live, rather than in sync with the TV coverage, was the right move. People were looking to @baftaonline for the definitive results when rumours were circulating on Twitter, and it wouldn’t have made sense to wait. We should probably have been clearer as the ceremony began that the tweets were going to be out of sync, to reduce the risk of people being surprised by spoilers.

Once the ceremony was over, and I’d reluctantly handed back the iPhone, I found myself on the stage itself. This was, frankly, even more surreal than the rest of the day. Watch this video below to get a sense of what it was like.

Later in the evening, my wife and I attended the Film Awards party, which was great fun.


On returning home, I discovered I’d been seen by the BBC News cameras 3 times. As Ian H pointed out, it’s a bit like playing ‘Where’s Wally’.

In the news (1 of 3) In the news  (2 of 3) In the news  (3 of 3)

This makes five times, to my knowledge, I’ve been spotted on TV. (The first and second both being on the set of Watchdog in 2008.)

So, all in all a fantastic day and what little stress I did feel was entirely exciting. Thanks to everyone at BAFTA for a brilliant time.

Holiday in Pembrokeshire

Back to work tomorrow after a great few days holiday. If you’re even in Pembrokeshire, I recommend St David’s, and Porth Clais. Between Thursday and Saturday the weather way very fine and we enjoyed long walks with the dog along the stunning Pembrokeshire coast.

Severn Bridge Bishops Palace at St David's Pigsfoot Lane Climbers Cliffs

Early Sunday morning, however, it turned not only very wet but also very very windy. Not a great combination when you’re sleeping under canvas, and we kept waking up slightly intimidated by the way our tent was being thrown around. Ray got out the camera to capture the moment (note the dog laying between our sleeping bags, 38 seconds in).

And about 20 minutes later, despite conducting emergency running repairs to the pegs and guy ropes holding us down, our tent had totally collapsed, with us inside it.

We had a lovely stay though, despite the final night. In fact, clambering out of an inside-out, soaking wet tent is a happy moment one that will stay with me for a very long time.

On the ground at the G20 protests

I took some photos of the G20 protests around RBS and the Bank of England today. I had a quiet afternoon after a meeting in Soho, so decided to head to Bank to take a look at the square mile and see what was afoot with the much discussed G20 protests. It ended up being anything but quiet.

Arriving at St Pauls (I’d already heard that Bank tube station was closed), I overheard various police officers informing people of the best ways to avoid Bank, saying that much of the area was closed off due the protests. Deciding I’d just get as close as I safely could, take some photos and then go home, I started walking towards the Bank of England.

I soon realised that the officer’s advice was sound. There were police blockades on every single street leading in to the Bank of England.

Many streets had not just one line of police but two, with a gap in between them, essentially keeping a safe distance between two crowds. Skirting around the cordons in busy side streets, I got as close as I could get.

Plenty of flag-waving, singing, cheering and jeering. It seemed peaceful and good-natured and I found the police to be largely friendly and helpful. People were having fun.

The guy on the right was being interviewed by Radio 4. When asked why he was dressed as Satan, and which group he was represented, he thought for a moment and said, “RBS”. The interviewer couldn’t help but grin.

2:20 – Note the gap between the two crowds in the photo above. Looking in from the outside, I could come and go as I pleased, as long as I didn’t want to get any closer to the central area filled with protesters. Equally, the people on the inside couldn’t get out. They were hemmed in by the police on all sides.

2:40 – Just as I’m getting a bit bored and thinking about heading back to the office, the central crowd starts pushing and shoving the line of police which is penning them in. Scarily (for me), within a couple of minutes they had managed to break through the line, and were surging in my direction. I moved back a few paces, fearing a stampede, but all that really happened was that two bits of the crowd (the inner bit, and my outer bit) had joined up.

2:41 – But… the police had pulled back and regrouped, forming two new lines, one on either side of me. I ask nicely about leaving.

– “Excuse me officer” (I’m nothing if not polite). “I think I’d actually like to be on that side of you…”
– “Sorry mate, not happening.”
– “Really? I just…”
– “No. No-one gets in, no-one gets out. Those are my orders”.

I’ve suddenly gone from being an outside observer to being one of 2000 people (not all of whom were protesters, I can assure you) trapped in the middle of the square mile.

2:50 – After the surge, things were pretty peaceful. I started checking with officers at the various (9?) blocked streets and alleys that they really were not letting anyone out, and was slightly horrified to learn they didn’t even have any idea of when they would start letting us leave. Frustrated, but trying to go with the flow, I a) rang my wife and b) started looking around at the stuff I couldn’t previously get to. There were no groups shoving at the police now. In fact, perhaps because there was more room, everyone seemed pretty relaxed.

3:00 – It felt pretty much like a carnival really. Singing, dancing, sound systems blasting 3 different sorts of music, lots of friendly, people being happy.

3:10 – Bloody hell, they’ve smashed RBS. This must have happened a while ago. Before I arrived, even? There are mounted police here, and the atmosphere is different here, on Threadneedle Street. There’s still a lot of anger focused here. I don’t like it.


4:00 – Heading back in the other direction, I find some shade and sit in a shop doorway, pull out my 3G dongle and check my email. People ask if there’s any news. When are we getting out? No idea. The news doesn’t know. The police blocking us in don’t know, so why should the news?

4:30 – Hot and tired. Annoyed. Thirsty. Bored. Restless.

4:45 – The general mood seems to be shifting and worsening. I’m not alone in wondering when those of us who don’t want to be here will be allowed to leave. Portaloos have arrived, which is certainly a good idea, but what about food? And water? This part of the city is pretty handy if you need a cash machine, but there’s certainly nowhere open in here to spend any of it.

The police line starts moving people back down Queen Victoria Street (past HSBC) back towards the centre. Once it starts, it happens quite quickly, and in quite an ugly way. BBC News 24 captures the confrontations, while I stay well back from the shoving.

Some protesters were throwing bottles, and I saw one flaming newspaper hurled. A handful of the scary hardcore anarchist-protester-types just stood there, squaring off with the police, intent on being forced back rather than just retreating. From the police’s side, the violence mainly involved shoving people along the street with their riot shields, but I did see the batons did get used a few times. This was the ugliest part of the day. (That I saw). The crowd went wild with shouts of “shame on you! shame on you!” whenever any sort of police violence was seen.

I’m still not sure why it was considered a good idea to compress the crowd back in to a smaller area. It certainly did the police no favours in the eyes of the more neutral observers.

5:30 – Free at last. I finally got out by showing my BBC ID card to a police officer (who I think probably assumed I was press). I was told “Ok. You can go this way to Cannon Street, but you won’t be able to get back in”. I don’t want to get back in. I want to go home. Except that I felt very bad for everyone else still penned in there, and seeing Pete Blakemore’s increasingly worrying updates (and the fact he was in there for at least a further three hours) made me even more glad to be back, but also even more uneasy and a little angry.


Yet more pictures…

Update: the Guardian has a great video and story which sums up the day, plus a balanced look at various videos springing up on YouTube after the event.

Being tall

There's something wrong with this shower The shower head is, as ever, too short


Wrapping Up

As you might know, I’m enjoying a relaxing couple of weeks off, wrapping up the year with family and friends. Staying with family means bonfires, Rock Band and eating copious quantities of rich and delicious food, like this:

Chocolate Christmas Puddings

My wonderful Mum made them my combining a broken up Christmas pudding with dark chocolate, rolling it into balls then topping with white chocolate and cherry. Quite indescribably good.

Hope you’re having fun. See you in 2009.

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