There are changes afoot (and apologies in advance to any RSS readers).
I’ve migrated Polytechnic over to Wagtail.
Wagtail is a content management framework that I’ve really enjoyed using for the past year. Not only is it built on top of Django, meaning I can make use of the great tools and apps that are part of that ecosystem, it’s also built by the team at my old employer Torchbox, giving it an excellent pedigree
This site has been running on Perch Runway since 2014 (so says my repository), and it’s served me well in that time, but I've increasingly found myself bumping up against some limitations in the platform when it comes to my future plans.
One of the main drivers behind this redevelopment was wanting to take a bit more control of my digital footprint out there on other sites.
Looking back at the previous version of the site, when it was just a blog, there were lulls in posting, but I wasn't completely quiet. I was still on Twitter, posting photos on Flickr, cataloguing music on Last.fm, and bookmarking everything. I was generating a lot of "me" stuff, but it was all elsewhere.
The Indieweb movement has a concept called PESOS - Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate (to your) Own Site (the alternate is POSSE - Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere), which is what I wanted to do here, but how?
Going back to the Django ecosystem, step up Phil Gyford’s amazing Ditto package. As Phil describes it:
“A collection of Django apps for copying things from third-party sites and services.”
I came across Ditto in June 2021 (according to Pinboard) and immediately knew it was the missing piece of the puzzle.
A few months development later, and here we are. One revamped site on a brand new platform:
- 19 years of blog posts (641 to be precise)
- 6,674 Flickr photos
- 14,066 Pinboard bookmarks
- 37,052 Tweets
- and 118,404 Scrobbles from Last.fm
There’s still a lot to do, I need to theme the “elsewhere” section to apply my design to it, and I think I broke webmentions somewhere along the way.
…but it was time to stop tinkering on localhost and get this thing live.
I’m really excited about what the combination of Django and Wagtail will allow me to do here, on my own little corner of the web.
(Feels like I've been trying to work out how to write this post for a few months now. Damn lockdown brain.)
After attending the always excellent New Adventures Conference in January I was inspired to leave my job and find something new.
So I handed in my notice without having a position to go to.
Then all this… [waves hands] happened.
It all worked out well in the end though.
Less short version
Back in January (which feels like a lifetime ago!) I was off to Nottingham for one of the highlights of my calendar, New Adventures conference.
This years was a more sombre affair, posing serious questions about catastrophic climate change, the ever widening gap between rich and poor, inclusivity in society, and our responsibilities as designers and developers to interrogate what this means for us and the things we put into the world.
During the morning of the conference, listening to Akil Benjamin talk about the power to make meaningful changes in your life, I started to feel this itch in the back of my head. An itch I'd felt before, I'd been dissatisfied with my job for a while.
This wasn't a people problem. My team were (are still) among the best people I have ever worked with. A smarter, more caring, compassionate, amazing bunch of human beings you couldn't hope to find.
No, this was a matter of process and structure. Things are slow in a large multinational. I didn't feel like I was making the kind of impact that I wanted to and I hadn't been finding the work very satisfying.
Then Akil posted this slide.
(He's a much bouncier and warmer person than this photo suggests)
And the itch got more insistent.
I decided was going to hand in my notice when I got back.
I've never left a position before without having something to go to, so I was nervous, but I knew there was a lot going on out there, and I am extremely lucky to have a great network of friends and peers, so it was a good nervous.
I (slightly) drunkenly told both Akil and Simon my plans at the after-party. A way to force myself to commit and not chicken out.
I did the deed, and my last day was set as March 20th.
I had some interviews, and was getting good feedback from everyone I was talking to, I even got an offer early on, but none of the positions felt right. Until I got an email from an old boss, saying that a friend of his was looking for a front-end dev, and would I like him to set up an introduction.
The first chat was back at the beginning of March with Dan, the CTO. A meeting that was originally scheduled for 1 hour became 3 hours in a cafe showing each other bits of code, designs, talking about the web, education, and all manner of things. An encouraging start.
Looking back it's strange how the follow-up meetings mapped themselves onto the encroaching pandemic.
The second chat was the following week with my now (spoilers!) CEO Elspeth. By this point health advice had turned to limiting physical contact. I visited the office this time, but we didn't shake hands, and there was plenty of hand sanitiser at the main door.
A week later I had my third chat, with Paul the Head Of Engineering, and although it was pre-lockdown, people were beginning to social distance and I was already working from home. This was a completely remote affair.
Everything went well and I was offered the position the week the lockdown was announced. I'm now the Front-End Developer at Learning With Experts.
My lovely team threw me a remote leaving party, there were lots of hats.
I hope we get to meet up for actual drinks in the future.
So, yeah. That was an interesting few months!
This thing is already too long, so I'm going to end it here, and follow-up with a post about how I'm dealing with lockdown, and things that have helped me.
Well I would say that, wouldn't I.
I'm referring to a recent edition of Jason Kottke and Tim Carmody's Noticing newsletter.
Jason asked Noticing readers to send in links to their blogs and newsletters, or their favourite blogs and newsletters written by someone else, and as he says:
My inbox exploded with replies. I couldn't include all (or even most!) of the links I got, but below is a good sampling representative of the types of blogs and newsletters I received.
It's a great list, and I'll be adding a few of them to my RSS feeds.
There's also a fantastic quote from Kari about why she writes:
I also keep it out of spite, because I refuse to let social media take everything. Those shapeless, formless platforms haven't earned it and don't deserve it. I've blogged about this many times, but I still believe it: When I log into Facebook, I see Facebook. When I visit your blog, I see you.
This place feels more like me than any other platform I use out there.
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.
Today, on the 13th May 2015, I stood at the top of Elizabeth Tower, next to Big Ben as it struck 3pm.
Sometimes our memory can be fuzzy about where we were, or what we were doing, at a particular moment in history, but I will always know exactly where I was at 3pm on the 13th May 2015.
That's a moment in time that hadn't happened before, and won't happen again, and it's mine.
Apologies for the lack of content but there has been a lot going on recently to drag my attention away from this place. Settling into the new job for one. I still love you all, and I will be back to my normal ranty self soon.
I've decided to take a break from posting for a while. There are some personal things happening that I need to focus my attention on, and this place is a too much of a distraction to handle right now, so I'm putting it in stasis.
Hopefully I'll be back at some point.