JRF weeknote, end of Feb 2021

Ella Fitzsimmons
5 min readFeb 28, 2021

A short note after a very short week. Had a holiday to celebrate a couple of Big Life Events, which was wonderful.


Had an at-work away day. Husna, Grace and Holly ran it. Away days can be tricky at the best of times, and especially online and on a limited budget, so I took to Twitter for inspiration. Natalie and Jo at Citizens Advice gave some great ideas for work-ier exercises, as did Sam at NHS Digital. In the end, we ended up doing a combination of some of their suggestions — going into smaller groups to look at a couple of strategic problems we thought were worth solving, and how we would solve them. Simon recommended Taskmaster online, which was indeed fun.

Thank you, lazyweb!

I really enjoyed the panel Anna Shipman chaired for LeadDev about creating a tech strategy. You *do* have to log in to watch it. I got annoyed at how much information LeadDev were asking for and typed “too much data capture” in one of the fields. It worked! They know only know my name, job title and organisation, but not why I’m interested in their videos. Truly, the kind of Obfuscation that Nissenbaum and Spall suggested would start the revolution. 2015: a gentler time.

Daniel and Paul C are experimenting with embedding maps on the site using Flourish. The people love maps. I am pro, but don’t think the iframe looks quite right on mobile yet. Next week!

I’m really pleased with the way that the new templates for twitter cards are working out courtesy of Martyn.

Husna and Luke have been working on this, which launched last week:

Speaking of journalism, there’s a grim report in The Guardian saying that the great British public think people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic have done so due to “performance issues”. We all know that, when used outside a Viagra ad or HR-speak, “performance issues” are a shorthand for laziness. Obviously not true, obviously associated with stigma.

The stigmas around poverty remind me of research about weight stigma:

Despite several decades of literature documenting weight stigma as a compelling social problem,1,2,8,9 this form of stigma is rarely challenged in North American society and its public health implications have been primarily ignored. Instead, prevailing societal attributions place blame on obese individuals for their excess weight, with common perceptions that weight stigmatization is justifiable (and perhaps necessary) because obese individuals are personally responsible for their weight,10 and that stigma might even serve as a useful tool to motivate obese persons to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors.1113

I’ve not got much to add. Just thinking about it.

Facepalm, frustration.


I have a bicycle. It’s a big life win, and in an early 20th century way it opens up space and speed like you would never believe.

I’ve been on LinkedIn for 13 years, since logging in to stalk advertising and design executives when I was at Campaign/Media. Back in the day, executives would post their new jobs before the press releases announcing their resignations and poachings had been released, and be surprised when I’d call them up (on my landline, and theirs) to confirm before we ran the story. Extraordinary scenes.

In terms of LinkedIn today, does anyone use it other than under-qualified recruiters typing in keywords? Other than that, the main things that seem to happen to me there is a mildly creepy now-VC who tried to date me when I was 19 and he was 33 who wishes me a happy birthday every year, and recommendations of Head of Product Design roles. 13 years of data about me, my job history and skills and they only just stopped showing me ads to be a “highly organised executive assistant at a high-growth company’ a few months ago. Truly, the new oil.

Based on my experiences with LinkedIn data, I’ll never get a job when machine learning makes decisions. This was very good though:

Maybe they’ll read my tweets instead, which could go either way. TBH, I’ve peaked with this one, about systems thinking:

Yes, I am referencing myself. If you think that’s gauche, it’s because it is. But it’s also funny, because I used to work as a ghost writer, so I frequently reference things I’ve written (or re-written) as other people. For some reason, this is not considered self-promotion at all. What does that say about simulacra and simulation, hmm?

I saw a tech policy fellowship that would pay £3K to develop policies about future internet. I worked on a blog post explaining federated machine learning a few years ago (so…not so very future), and…yeah…if you’re counting day rates, it cost multiples of that to produce. But maybe undergraduate humanities essay prize level is what the Tony Blair Institute is looking for? In which case, proceed.

I thought this was a lovely project, recapturing a maligned, marginal character from history:

It distracted me from re-reading The Moon is a Balloon. Though I’d be lying if I said I won’t read it again.

I also stopped reading Where the Crawdads Sing, which I bought because it was cheap. I found the author’s efforts to make the reader understand that the main character was a hot white girl with a uniquely pure understanding of nature…distasteful. Especially given the author’s background (CW: racist violence)

And the best podcast I’ve listened to all week:

Just brilliant. With quotes and thinking like this, which takes the critiques of the class implications of publishing and places them in a much wider, clever context:

…realized that a lot of publishing — it’s hard to make money as an agent, and so you have to have a lot of privilege….And so what happens through the years is these become like legacy careers. It’s not an accident that it’s predominantly run by white women. And in that sense, working class narratives or intersectional narratives are seen as rare, but it’s only rare to the industry. It’s actually more commonplace. And I taste tongue in cheek when a journalist asks me, “Oh, you have such an interesting life.” I say, actually, if you look at the history of our species, geopolitical rupture is incredibly commonplace. I would argue that living in a suburban home is quite exotic. That’s a very rare thing.

(Emphasis mine.)

I’m working my way through all of them. The Janicza Bravo and Joi McMillon one is also wonderful.

Says Bravo:

To me, I feel my work is made so much better by who I invite in, and it would be goofy to not credit. I don’t think crediting others diminishes what I have brought to the table. In fact, I’m like, “I did that. I thought of them. Aren’t I great? I considered it. I curated, I did the dinner party. I hosted.” You know what I mean?

Not word of a lie.

Honestly, only putting this screenshot of Jeff Goldblum here to get a preview image