Caring about performance isn’t only a business goal […]. It’s about fundamental empathy and putting the best interest of the users first.
As technologists, it’s our responsibility not to hijack attention and time people could be happily spending elsewhere. Our objective is to build tools that are conscious of time and human focus.
If you are in any way linked to Oxford, you may have heard that The Cellar, one of our most beloved music venues, is under threat of closure.
My first exposure to The Cellar was before I moved to Oxford, or even thought of doing so, back in 1995.
I was living in Coventry, and helping out my friend’s bands where I could. One of the bands I crewed for booked a gig in at The Cellar, so we loaded the gear in the back of the van, and after a trip down the motorway, the doors opened.
It wasn’t quite the Oxford I’d heard of, the home of Radiohead and Supergrass, the Dreaming Spires. There we were, on Cornmarket, hungry, tired, trying to work out where the gig was. We found the alley…
“Fuck, that’s a lot of stairs” 1
The Immaculate Assassins played to a couple of people, but it was a fun gig, and I remember the bar staff being lovely.
Cut to 2003, I’d been in Oxford six years now (that’s another story), and The Cellar had become part of my life. At least once a week I’d find myself there, discovering a new band, meeting new people, a lot of whom are friends to this day.
I wasn’t from here, but this had become my home. This was my Oxford.
I was playing guitar in a band 2 with some friends (I say “playing”… I was trying to find interesting ways to get effects pedals to cover up for my lack of talent) and we’d been having fun rehearsing at Glasshouse. We’d started to get a set together, and we’d invite friends to rehearsals to hear what we were doing. They’d bring beer, we’d swap instruments, play some covers, arse around, but we kept coming back to the set. And we got tighter.
I can’t exactly remember how it came about, but talk turned to actually playing the set in front of people. An actual gig.
Then we got a gig, and it was at The Cellar. Playing support… but it was an actual fucking gig.
I remember panicking slightly.
(…it’s the Cellar…)
Then I panicked a lot.
(…we can’t play there, that’s where… proper bands play…)
The day of the gig I was a wreck, I was so nervous I could barely speak. My partner was an absolute rock, we sat in my flat watching films, and she held my hand the whole time and told me it would be okay.
We set up, we sound checked, I had a confusing conversation with the sound engineer about the amount of feedback I was producing (“…I’m going for Jesus & Mary Chain, I’ve got this… I think”), we got a round of applause from the bar staff (I told you they were lovely), and then we waited.
Next thing I remember is seeing my band mates on the stage, and my partner saying “shouldn’t you be up there?”, I panicked, ran round the back of the artist area, up on to the stage smacking my head on the lintel on the way (if you’ve played The Cellar, you’ll know the bit of architecture I mean), plugging my guitar in, and thinking “this is it, I’m on stage at The Cellar, and I’ve given myself concussion, I’m about to pass out. Good work Garrett”.
I didn’t pass out, and by all accounts we played a good gig. I don’t remember much of it. At the bar after the gig a friend said that I had an “unconventional” style of guitar playing. I took that as a compliment.
The Cellar is an important part of my life, and it’s an important part of countless other lives.
The Cellar is one of those place where memories are formed.
We were helping test Ruth’s new site in the Digital Oxford Slack a few days ago, and the topic of easter eggs and silly little things came up. Ruth wanted some quotes from us to scatter in amongst the source of her site, and we helpfully obliged.
It reminded me of a little tribute that I added to the HTTP headers of this site when Terry Pratchet passed, and how your site should be a place to play, and experiment.
So I’ve added something else. You’ll have to go find it though.
I’m going to play more.
This report on an IRIX OS release from 1993 shows that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
It’s full of great advice such as:
Aim for simplicity in design, not complexity. Make a few things work really well; don’t have 1000 flaky programs. Be willing to cut features; who’s going to be more pissed off: a customer who was promised a feature that doesn’t appear, or the same customer who gets the promised feature, and after months of struggling with it, discovers he can’t make it work?
And a few brilliant burns:
Marketing - Engineering Disconnect: “Marketing – where the rubber meets the sky.”
I also know that any man who is uncomfortable with the empowerment of women is simply afraid that the only thing he has going for him is that he is a man.
I’m simultaneously horrified by the amount of shit women have to deal with, and in awe of their fortitude in the face of all that shit.
Obviously, open by default is the new fashionable, but I’m pretty sure it’s no longer enough for organisations to be “open” because no matter how hard you try, eventually that just becomes PR and marketing fluff. Much better to aim to be porous. For people and conversations and ideas to flow in and out irrespective of departmental and organisational boundaries. Rip down the barriers to conversation and collaboration internally and externally.
Well, the less said about the state of 2016 in general, the better.
However, it’s been another inspiring year for music and film, so here are my picks of 2016. In no particular order, and as it’s my house I didn’t limit them to ten.
- Wussy - Forever Sounds
- Stephen Steinbrink - Anagrams
- She Makes War - Direction Of Travel (As I mentioned last year, it was always going to make a second appearance)
- Gitta de Ridder - Feathers
- Sad13 - Slugger
- Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
- Martha - Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart
- Julia Jacklin - Don’t Let The Kids Win
- Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation - Mirage
- Agnes Obel - Citizen of Glass
- Angel Olson - My Woman
- Car Seat Headrest - Teens Of Denial
- Cavern Of Anti-Matter - Void Beats / Invocation Trex
- Emma Pollock - In Search Of Harperfield
- Heron Oblivion - Heron Oblivion
(If you want to see what I picked when limited to ten films, then you can have a look at my Letterboxd Top Ten for 2016)
- Sing Street
- Hail, Caesar!
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople
- The Nice Guys
- Swiss Army Man
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- Midnight Special
- Captain America: Civil War
- Jungle Book