JRF March 21, 2021

Ella Fitzsimmons
8 min readMar 21, 2021


Apparently, Mike Nichols “was expert at crafting anecdotes that satisfied a craving while sealing off further inquiry.” Elaine May, it turns out, was (or is) terrible at this: all of her stories about how she and Nichols met and worked together and fought and worked together again just invite more speculation or worry. Possibly closer to how I write, that.

Last weekend, I managed to type this:

I’ve been interviewing people and doing a lot of talking this week. I should be able to recall what I’ve done, more, but there’s something about being on an endless number of Teams’ calls that affects my memory. It’s a bit like browning out from alcohol, with very little recollection of what I’ve said to whom. This is probably exacerbated by the fact that two people I used to love very much died this week. I don’t feel like I can write about them, for a myriad of reasons. On many levels, I’m not the right person to offer condolences for their passing. Though it makes it tricky to write much.

This week

Writing was easier. I’m extremely excited that we’re doing some work in and around getting healthy, clear processes in place for producing content. The UCD team did a great show and tell about bringing together campaign content onto one part of the site. (I’m rejecting the language of “hub” because…it’s too aesthetically unpleasing, and not accurate enough to compensate for that horrible, heavy, central “u”.) Martyn, Paul and I have been talking branding and identity. A contract came through, which is exciting, so we’ll start some prototyping with an external group of people in April. (The formal announcement cometh.) We had a feedback session about the CRM work, I worked with a colleague to propose how to improve the data quality on the current CRM, and I’m plotting a renewed way of using project management software, so that it’s clear how and when it’s useful.

I took a few days to do very little other than be angry and sad and go for bike rides and play games and read books.

That quote in the intro about Mike Nichols is from Mark Harris’s biography of him. This review does it justice, I think?

I mean, is it as fun as Elton John’s ghostwritten autobiography? It is not. Very few things are. But it’s a wonderfully well-written biography. Harris does something superbly clever as a biographer— mimicking how Nichols sort-of disappears in his films, but is always present. Highly recommended, especially as a gift for people in your life who think they’re better than that. You know who they are.

I read “Girl Parts” by Eliza Clark. Had its moments, but is astonishingly uneven. And is it *really* inherently interesting to have a beautiful girl be murderous and self-centred? Or is it just a case of English letters not having been sufficiently involved with writing by the likes of Virginie Despentes and Marie Darrieussecq (or even Darcey Steinke and Iris Owens)? I feel like I read similar themes 15, 20 years ago, because I am a pretentious European nerd. If the themes aren’t new, surely we need crisper, more interesting execution?

Anyway, I also listened to a 4 hour discussion about Ishiguoro and The Remains of the Day. And then broke my JoyCons in a rage when stuck on a level in Super Mario All Stars 3D.

I’m a joy to live with.


Thinking a lot about organisational design these past weeks.

Remember in 2014 or so when everyone was inspired by Spotify’s matrix squad model? I’m thinking about the phenomenon that corrections or alterations don’t meme in the same way that original mistakes do. I know we worry a lot about misinformation, and there’s reasons to do that, though I really like the subversion in “You’re Wrong About” showing that media-led misunderstandings, inaccuracies and smear-campaigns are nothing new. But where would you publish a correction to something like Spotify’s squad model, in ways that have the same level of dissemination as the original marketing, and which aren’t a horror story?

Anyway, this was good on what to learn from Spotify’s failures and sort-of what to do instead:

It’s pretty interesting to read that Spotify internally acknowledge that they continued to talk about the Squad model because it was good for marketing-and-recruitment. Who amongst us has not done something similar? (It’s relevant, I think, that it was published a year ago and I only came across it now.) Here’s an acknowledgement that there’s no such thing as a perfect operating model:

This discussion about where product management has gone wrong is an obvious “hire my consultancy” pitch, but there’s a lot of quotable bits. So I’m putting it in here for things to steal so I look clever:

I made it into the Public Digital newsletter last week. Mazel tov. If I’d written that post today, I would have made it clear that I include all women in that categorisation, and that all of this is meaningless if we don’t take an intersectional approach to things. Still feel the rage though.

The youth will be much better at doing this than I am. Don’t trust me, trust The Good Naomi (Klein, not Wolf)

I got slightly obsessed with the Japanese rock band Les Rallizes Dénudes. They disbanded after one of them got involved in a Red Army plane hijacking incident in Korea in 1969.

Am I superficially flirting with revolutionary aesthetics to fight my middle class malaise? Oui. But it’s an interesting story. Plus, I suspect that they were mainly appreciated by people like me:

“For those young people — including you — who live this modern agonizing adolescence and who are wanting the true radical music, I sincerely wish the dialogue accompanied by piercing pain will be born and fill this recital hall”.

I mean, it’s on the nose. But admit that it’s a little bit funny.

Under the pavement, the beach!

(Or, you know: Under the websites, the data!). I’ve long thought that data-as-time is a more fruitful metaphor than any of the other ill-considered tedium we see floating around what I age-ingly call “the blogosphere”. And that the internet needs to be thought about temporally rather than spatially.

But the thought of writing a “Data is like X” post fills me with a deep self-loathing. Wanting to claim power over an area of throught through Adamic naming is the sort of activity only the most meretricious of tenure-seeking academics and their online correlates spend time on.

[deep breath, finger raised to make a no-doubt scintillating argument]

THAT SAID I think I’m right about data and time. Plus, the historical parallels are deeply satisfying. Compare the effects of the widespread mechanisation and standardisation of time with the possibility of mechanisation and standardisation of human experience through data. And then the uses this is put to from both factory owners and organised labour. I’m going to end up writing one of those posts, aren’t I? Sigh.

I’m always relieved when I see that I’m far from the first person to think about this. If in doubt, assume that a raging Euro socialist from the 90s has been there first. Reassuring.

“Cyberspace” renders the internet in spatial terms, and evokes images of highways, libraries, webs, clouds, and shopping malls. All of these tend to naturalize concepts like scarcity and enclosure, which in turn lend themselves to the possibilities of exclusive ownership, exploitation, debt, or rent.

By contrast, “nettime” renders the internet temporally. Whereas the concept of a spatial network frames humans as occupants of a fixed virtual world — one that could be chopped up into shopping malls — “nettime” suggests that their mutual engagement fundamentally constitutes the network itself — that there is no network without the nodes it connects. Rather than passively “going” online and browsing shelves, we actively produce the network together, in real time, through our collective participation. “The time of nettime is a social time,” wrote Pit Schultz in the introduction to an October 1996 Nettime publication. “Time on the net consists of different speeds, computers, humans, software, and bandwidth, the only way to see a continuity of time on the net is to see it as an asynchronous network of synchronized time zones.”

It reminds about a chat I had with Kush a while back about Google and time-definitions, which I’ve been noodling on for a while.

Also, if you’re interested and considering doing a PhD in religious studies (Do Not Do This, I am available for discussions about why PhDs are a Bad Idea), this is a wonderful introduction to how and why religious practices organise and shape both the body and time


On writing

I’ve been prototyping with Webflow. It’s absurdly easy. I would be terrified if I’d been making simple websites for a living. It definitely makes it easier to make simple things to test and try.

In conclusion

Reject the need for one. I’m off to play with Twine.