Large parts of this year have felt… bitty. But slowly pieces are coming together. I start a new job in June.

It’s not advertising. It’s not in the UK. I’ll be living in Paris for a few months, and then off to San Francisco in October.

Well, actually I’ll spend a month in SF first, a long weekend in Austin, several weekends in London while I move house there (ridiculous), Paris, and then finally San Fran perm.

And right now? I’m not in London. I’m in LA. And wouldn’t you but know it, this ol’ project also has lots of moving parts.

Today is the first morning I’ve had even semi-clear. I’m listening to Woody Allen and thinking how close some routines like ‘The Kidnapping’ are to a really good Blue Jam.

I almost posted this Jam-cum-Boosh sketch, ‘Isolation’ a few weeks back…

And now, I just stumbled upon an all-grown-up FOTC-like song that instantly became my jam.

I feel all these pieces should tie up somehow, but for now they’re all just moving, moving, moving.


I’ve been with NewsBlur just over a year and it keeps getting better.

You can share items to your own blurblog (basic-looking, but there’s an option for custom CSS). Also each starred item tag gets its own RSS feed. And the service now works with IFTTT.

Added to which, its creator Samuel Clay must be one of the hardest working, most feedback friendly devs out there.

NewsBlur’s trainable site is swift, there’s an iOS app, and it all integrates with ReadKit on desktop if you prefer your feeds served up that way.

Put another way…

… and I haven’t looked back since.

Advice on Advertising

Advice, like fruit, is best when it’s fresh. But advice quickly decays, and 15 year-old advice is bound to be radioactive.
— Jason Fried

Every now and again an email comes my way via the younger generation – that newer, taller, better-looking, and funnier bunch of people – asking in a round-about way for a top-line primer on advertising and how best to apply.

Sooo, I dunno. I got one of those emails a while ago from a would-be planner and bashed out a reply, part of which I’ve copied below. Hopefully it’s a start. This is the kind of post that would have festered in my drafts box had I not just read Jason’s timely post about, er, giving less advice.

If you (public) could help me that would be great. What advice / reading lists would you give? The fresher the better.


My creative director’s blog is a pretty good insight into the mindset and business of advertising.

I am of course a veritable wealth of information and wisdom. Sadly I don’t blog that often, but when I do etc.

Definitely good to have a few favourite adverts.

I’ve never written an application letter to an agency, but if you want to pass one by me I will do my best to identify and eliminate cringe as and when it arises.

Just remembered another blog (reading back this email and realising how good/wanky it looks with short sentences).

Oh, and Dave Bedwood is also very smart on advertising. (I love his thing about shit advertising in the Sci-Fi future.)

And there’s this book I’ve been meaning to read for ages.

Nathan is great, though I wish he hadn’t switched to that Tumblr theme.

Also have a look at the archives of Crackunit, which should be bread-and-butter by now but it’s amazing the number of people who still don’t get it.


That’s it.

Aunt Flo’

Great discussion about period tracker apps on Twitter.

Weather apps are so 2012. If this gap in the market doesn’t scream portfolio piece or opportunity for disruption to you, oh app developer, then I shake my head I really do.

No Time Travellers on the Internet

Sad news via Popular Science: there are no time travellers on the Internet, at least according to these boffins. And it gets worse…

This is not the first time somebody has looked for evidence of future time travelers. Physicist Stephen Hawking, for example, held a party for time travelers in July, 2012, and only sent out invitations afterward. Sadly, nobody came.



Cute, Interesting, Fun

There’s a nice bit in Stephen King’s writing book where he says that if in doubt you should use the verb ‘to say’. Not declaim, not exclaim, not interject, not ejaculate. Say. Admittedly it’s hard to take vocab lessons from a man who has no qualms using the word ‘seed’ (give me ‘cum’ or ‘semen’ any day), but he’s definitely onto something. Here are three words that once peppered my personal lexicon but whose use I’ve since learned to temper.


I was walking across Kings, towards the bridge and then on to the English Faculty with Zack. We were in our third year. We were talking about dissertations; mine was still in a bit of a state, but Zack had some really interesting ideas about systems of law and King Lear (for context, he ended up getting one of the highest Tripos scores in our year, and he’s now – in the real world – a highflying barrister). I nodded enthusiastically at what Zack was saying, and said sincerely, ‘Oh that’s really cute!’.

Zack looked slightly aghast. I had meant cute as a high compliment, not an arch one. I had meant to say ‘Oh, that’s great! What a unique spin, what a delight that would be to read if it were done well. If I were a marker, I’d be putting double ticks all over the margin.’ But I learnt that day to be wary of how I use the word ‘cute’.

Resolution:  try to carry off the more American, but in other ways similar, ‘neat’. Or just say ‘That’s good’.


This one surprised me. During summer I was working on something with a partner, and a team we weren’t familiar with. Coming out of one review, one of the CDs turned to the other and they started cracking up about the word ‘interesting’.

‘What’s wrong with interesting?’, I asked, less rhetorically than those around me inferred. Well – to answer my own question – if the person saying it isn’t, if what they’re saying isn’t, and – in fact – the only thing distinctive is the way they say the word… Well, if you take that and repeat it over a period of months on a three-day cycle, I can see how the word ‘interesting’ could get tarnished. I’m still going to use it, I just thought it remarkable that a perfectly innocuous (in a good way) word had been tarnished.

Resolution: resist ‘interesting’ and prefer ‘fascinating’. It will be far more obvious if you’re being delusional or taking the piss. And the compliment will be all the greater for employing the greater stakes. Or just say, ‘Oh, that’s good.’


I’m still on the fence with this one. I love it when it’s meant in a businesslike writerly way. Ben Blacker uses it a lot. But ‘fun’ is a functional descriptor in a writers room. At other times it can come off dismissive. In a recent Nerdist podcast, Nick Offerman’s talking about an incident early on in his courtship of Megan Mullally and, yeah, let’s just say ‘fun’ can be loaded…

Resolution: fuck it, stick with fun. Life's too short, but remember to use it meanly from time to time.

Space Hardware

I’ve had Life’s a Riot With Spy Vs Spy  on repeat recently. My old flatmate Elliott used to play ‘A New England’ (track 4) a lot, but rarely sung along to the words. Which is a shame, because they are brilliant.

Apparently this particular song was indeed inspired by Bragg  looking up into the sky for inspiration, and only seeing two satellites. The way that almost-but-not-quite-adequate-metaphor is handled – the words, all their syllables, packed into that line is so bloody witty. Along with all that goes with it; the sense of a frustrated poetic soul concerned with what’s ‘wrong’ and missing the point. Not seeing the trees for the wood.

I loved the words you wrote to me but that was bloody yesterday. I can’t survive on what you send every time you need a friend.

I saw two shooting stars last night. I wished on them, but they were only satellites. It’s wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care.
— Billy Bragg, ‘A New England’

Earlier this month, NASA announced that mankind had become an interstellar species, thanks to  Voyager. On board Voyager – or VGER as it will come to be known when it makes a destructive return journey to Earth – is the Golden Record. There’s no Bragg on board – no Beatles either, since EMI refused to release the rights to ‘Here Comes The Sun’. But bugger me if the text on board doesn’t represent some of the best copywriting ever.

It’s elegant and deliberately clumsy at once. Consciously stripping away at rhetoric. It’s self-awarely naive yet genuine at the same time. It’s precocious. It wishes on Space Hardware.

Bing (and be Binged)

Microsoft’s sheer lack of taste is almost constantly surprising, but with Bing I wish they’d just sort themselves out and come up with a decent alternative to Google. Which leads into problem / challenge one.

Unless they steal, Bing’s search results will never be exactly the same as Google’s. And for many that will just mean straight off that Bing’s results are worse. Who wants to un-learn how they search? Google became a verb for a reason.

So, while the “decision engine” language that surrounded Bing’s first launch was a bit of a flop – ‘Bing and decide’ feels so cumbersome, like ‘boot up and Start’ – the idea of putting a bit of intentional distance between Google and Bing isn’t a bad one at all.

Self-identifying recommendation engines and serendipity engines (shudder) will never catch on in the public imagination. Amazon is in the best place to break through with a universal recommendation engine. It’s the only big system where universal wish lists don’t feel creepy. (Facebook missed a trick there, and especially Yahoo had they only been able to service Delicious well and acquire Hunch in their 2.0 blooming phase.)


So what kind of engine should Bing market itself as? For me there’s no doubt about it. Translation. Go hard and go fast on translation. Build an app for every platform. Carpet bomb on marketing. Try to make it so that ‘Bing’ is a command at the end of a phrase – like ‘return’. Experiment with how that feels – Bing constantly listening, analysing, parsing, ready to execute at the drop of a hat. Like the ping when you change lines on a typewriter.

People like to be able to dominate the technology they use. For all Sergey’s bizarre chat about mobile phones having ‘emasculating’ touch screens, Google’s voice interfaces have replaced the command with a servile request: ‘OK, Google’. Start with OK? It sounds so resigned. So lower-status. Best would be not having to use a trigger word. Second best, have it at the end and work towards eradicating its need by getting shit-hot cadence analysis.

Bing needs to become synonymous with being translated. Or better, being understood. “Blah, blah, blah, capiche?” 

You bing, right? We cool.