Reasons to be cheerful #3
This week's list of little things:
- my longest run of the year so far
- finally finishing The Count of Monte Cristo
- the moon
- a restock of beer from the pub
- first day warm enough to wear shorts
This week's list of little things:
I've never used many services in the running of my website that require cookies to be set. I don't use sharing buttons or embed media from third party services, and I choose to use a privacy-friendly analytics tool with cookies turned off.
I gave the site an overhaul recently and part of that process was checking what cookies were set. The only ones listed in the report were those set by the cookie notification plugin I was using, which seems redundent when there's no other cookies to accept or reject...
So I've turned off that plugin and am pleased to report my site is cookie free.
I've also been following Dave Smyth's work on a new project, No To Spy Pixels, which aims to raise awareness, and encourage regulation, of what gets tracked when you open emails from mailing lists.
I use ConvertKit to send my newsletter which doesn't currently have the option to allow you to turn off tracking. However, following the launch of No To Spy Pixels, I went to find out if this was a planned feature and if not, to request it is added to the list.
I'm pleased that it is currently in development and I've joined the beta testing. From now on, my newsletter and other emails sent through ConvertKit won't track opens, location or device information. It's not yet possible to turn of link tracking, but I've requested this be added to the development. And I'm fully prepared to find an alternative email provider if I can't get this functionality.
I live near one of the main routes into the centre of Newcastle. Lately I've noticed that traffic during what you might describe as the morning rush hour has increased. It doesn't feel that different from what a typical rush hour might have been like before the pandemic.
When I see this, questions start popping in my head:
My most niggling question concerns public transport. During rush hour before the pandemic there would be full buses going by every 5 minutes. Post pandemic, however, people will be more cautious about getting on a bus. That's perfectly understandable, but it worries me that instead of the bus they will opt to drive instead. Then we'll be in a situation where there are more cars than ever on the road during rush hour.
Here are some more questions that spring to mind when I think about possible ways to avoid this:
I got to the end of the work day yesterday feeling pretty flat. As we sat down to eat our tea I put the radio on. It was right as Just a Minute was starting on Radio 4. If you're not familiar with it, and don't want to click that link, here's how it works:
contestants are challenged to speak for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition on any subject that comes up on the cards
Just a Minute has been running for 54 years and is a British broadcasting institution. And it never fails to make me laugh. So at the end of yesterday's episode my mood had significantly improved.
Laughter has been an essential feature of lockdown life. Whether it's been howling at the antics of Johnny Vegas, Daisy May Cooper, Katherine Parkinson, Mawaan Rizwan and Richard Herring on the latest series of Taskmaster or roaring at some of the ridiculous statements that fall from my family's mouths (which I won't repeat because you most definitely had to be there), having a good laugh at something trivial has been good for the soul.
So, if all goes to plan it looks like life will expand beyond the four walls of the home gradually over the next four months. It's nice to be able to think about making tentative plans for seeing family and friends in the not too distant future.
As with most news these days, however, I'll wait for the dust to settle and then only proceed with cautious optimism. The caution is largely around the details. I'm already hearing people pin their hopes on the dates that are mentioned in each step, speculating on when they may return to work, the gym, the pub or book the next holiday. But we need to be clear these are the earliest possible dates and it's highly likely they will change.
My preference is simply to think about the order that things will happen – this, then that, then that... And instead of thinking months ahead, to look forward a week or two at the most. It's easier then to come to terms with the inevitable shifts that happen. I think my stock phrase for the next few months will be 'let's wait and see.'
Rounding off another week with a list of things that keep me smiling:
Most days I include sections of the Coxlodge wagonway on my lunchtime walk. I like it because it’s away from traffic (mostly) and is quieter than the nearby parks. The route was used in the 19th century to haul coal from Coxlodge Colliery, just north of Newcastle upon Tyne, to the staiths at Wallsend on the river Tyne.
There is an extensive network of wagonways in the region which have been turned into footpaths and cycle ways. Around 30 miles of routes, maintained by North Tyneside Council, include local nature reserves Rising Sun Country Park and Wallsend Dene.
One of the great highlights of the first lockdown was discovering that it’s possible to walk from my home to Rising Sun largely off road. Today I walked a new section and it’s clear I’ve got much more exploring to do.
I've spent this afternoon revisiting my personal values as part of a strategy session planning what projects I'm going to work on next.
My reason for doing this is simple – without understanding my values, and therefore what is important to me, it's very hard to make decisions about where best to spend my time and what to prioritize.
I've chosen to write out my values as a keyword and supporting statement. That currently looks like this:
With my values clearly articulated, I can go to my list of potential projects and see how they align with them. To do this, I annotate each project with icons (see image below) to represent each value that it fulfils. For example, my weekly newsletter aligns with integrity, openness, trust and connection. This activity helps me to feel more confident in the decisions I make around the projects I prioritize and pursue.
Let me say this first – I'm not against self-promotion, you can't be when you are a one-person business, but I believe there are boundaries and when they are pushed it aggravates me.
I'm writing this as a lament because recently one of the most supportive groups I've been involved with has been hijacked by people promoting their new products and services. When I joined it was a place to ask questions, get feedback or recommendations and share ideas. But those kinds of posts are now few and far between, and I miss it. I miss the safe space among peers to ask for, and offer, help.
I know it doesn't have to be this way. I've been, and am (thankfully), part of at least one community that has succeeded in maintaining a peer support space free from marketing. From what I've observed, the reason it succeeds is that all of the following are in place: – clear and visible community guidelines – multiple channels for different topics, rather than a single stream – active moderators, who challenge guideline breaches
Why does this feel so rare though?
By my calculations I'm reaching a point where I could legitimately claim to have been blogging for 20 years. I began my blogging journey as a teenager back in the early 2000s. My very first blog was on Diary-x.
I clearly got the blogging bug as after that I've had blogs on: – Tumblr – Blogger – Wordpress (both hosted and self-hosted) – write.as
At any one time I'll have at least two blogs on the go; one more personal and one more professional. I've also set up blogs for specific projects and training programmes. In a past life I even used a blog to teach people how to blog.
I can't say what prompted me to start blogging, but I know why I've continued. A blog is a space to: – think and explore what interests you – develop writing skills and style – express yourself and share ideas publicly – start conversations and get feedback
Can social media or newsletters replace blogs? I don't think so. These other places to write and express yourself are an addition to, not a replacement for, blogs. If anything, I think we're seeing a renaissance of blogging through challenges like 100 Days to Offload that help build the habit and confidence to write, and services like write.as that make it so much easier to publish.