Weekly Reading

Henry Kissinger’s On China was a fascinating read. Deeply insightful and provided some real perspective on the Communist Party of China and how confucianism still leads and influences modern policy in the country. Kissinger is entirely too easy on Mao and the millions of deaths he caused as a result of his policies and the political upheaval that he lead - but I certainly learnt a lot about the history of the country and why some of the diplomatic policies were the way that they were. A hugely fascinating read if you want to understand what’s going on in the world right now and how we got there.

I started reading Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World on Friday, it’s, errrr, not off to a good start, but I’ll hold off on my judgement until I’ve read the whole thing.

Unsurprisingly, the climate continues to be a pressing issue - immigration and mass migrations as a result of armed conflict have been serious issues for hundreds of years, but soon we’ll start seeing these mass migrations occur as a result of climate change, with recent examples in Pakistan and Egypt showing how glacial thawing and rising sea levels will impact people’s lives and livelihoods.

We already know some of the damage this can cause, we need to do something about it now.

Monoculture farming continues to be an environmental distaster, the most recent victim being the humble banana, which is now threatened by a fungus that could kill the plant off entirely.

Now seems like a good time to familiarise yourself with Yvon Chouinard and how his environmental beliefs have shaped the apparel company Patagonia. Business can help us save the environment - but only if we consume less and are more thoughtful about our purchasing habits.

I’ve heard people talking about Morning Brew for a while now but this article about their referral program is deeply insightful, without the toxic “growthhacker” mentality than you often see on topics like this. Covering everything from how they technically went about setting up the program to their reasoning behind their gift tiers, including breakdowns for CAC, there’s a lot to learn from this.

While you’re here, you should sign up to their daily email as well (That’s a referral link 😉, I want the mug!).

I’m a big fan of Wikipedia, and some of the absurd policies and fringe interests that run on the site.

Speaking of Wikipedia, did you know that it’s built on an open source PHP platform called Mediawiki? Jacobian on Twitter got me thinking about the good old days, when you could get software running on a server without needing to understand command lines, containers, front end frameworks and all that other gubbins. It’s still a language that’s used all across the web, including Slack, so maybe it’s time we started taking it seriously again?

Want to save capitalism? Maybe we should all just be getting paid more so we can consume more, or, you know, consume more ethically.

The videogame industry has a politics problem, and an audience that’s too uneducated to understand that supporting the status quo is, in and of itself a political stance. Gamergate exposed an ugly underbelly to male hobby led online communities, and it appears some people have been taking note. Disney appear to be weaponising their audience in their recent failed negotiation attempts with Sony with regards to the Spider Man franchise.

On the subject of corporate cowardice in the face of an increasingly politically aware society, Gilette just backtracked their “toxic masculinity” campaign. Sigh.

I watched Netflix’s The Great Hack a few weeks ago, while there were certainly no deep revelations if you’ve been paying attention over the last couple years, it is beginning to expose the darker side of digital marketing. Big tech platforms are responsible for a lot of the problems we’re seeing in society today, so it should come as no surprise that Zuckerberg lied about Facebook’s knowledge of what was going on with Cambridge Analytica’s data exfiltration.

Later in the communication, one of the employees called the Cambridge Analytica situation “hi pri” for high priority after The Guardian ran its article claiming the presidential campaign for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was using data on Facebook users largely without their consent.

Keeping this stuff in mind, it’s hard not to support Apple’s decision to obfuscate individual’s email addresses when they sign up to services using Sign in with Apple. We’ve proven time and time again that we can’t be trusted with personal data and I think we can only expect services like this to become increasingly prevalent as these scandals continue to unfold.

Technology is advancing and opportunities are being created everywhere, it’s hard not to look at something like Phrasee with optimism, we’ll see some radical shifts in marketing when we can focus on the top-level strategy and leave the more tactical elements - like good writing - to tools better suited to the job.

It’s easy to only read viewpoints that come from a particular societal point of view, but we can only really learn and improve when we consider how other’s see the world, something that Bruce Lee understood better than most.

Benek Lisefski writes that “Data-Driven Design Is Killing Our Instincts” and Tanner Christensen writes that “every product of design is one of opinion”, it seems to me like there’s a middle ground to be reached where opinionated experience and data informs the creative process.

On a similar note, Lee Robinson has an excellent breakdown of Style Guides and Design Systems. This one’s well worth bookmarking.

An article on A List Apart recently got me thinking about how I keep track of my career accomplishments and progress, I’m going to start taking weekly notes to keep track of the big stuff.

A recent article in the Guardians opens up with this great sentence:

With blatant disregard for the public benefits of motivational idioms, researchers have concluded that practice does not, necessarily, make perfect.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in these ideas, but sometimes practice for practice’s sake is worth pursuing, even if you won’t turn out to be an expert.

Finally, this article on maps is fascinating. It has been proven that the way we consume information shapes our perception of the world, maybe we’ve lost a part of ourselves by relying on technology so much?


Big shoutout to the folks at Action Rocket for the meetup this week. It was excellent as always.