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Manchester from above
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What no-one will tell you about rocking employment fairs! (specifically the Manchester Digital talent fest)

All you need to know:

  1. Get a ticket
  2. Turn up.
  3. Talk to as many tech companies as possible to try understand what they do and how they operate

All you need to know to rock it:

Do:

  • Ask people lots of questions – especially about the area you’re most interested in. People LOVE anyone who’s interested in learning about how they do things – and this is what is likely most interesting to you. You can ask things like:
    • What technology does you use? What sort of tooling do you use on your frontend projects? What’s your backend architecture?
    • What sort of software development methodology do you use? What’s your process for turning requirements into code?
    • Is there anyone here who I can talk to about networking / programming / how you do project management / marketing etc?
    • What are the skills or technologies you feel most new graduates are missing that I can start familiarising myself with?
    • There is a question people love answering but students never ask: ”What’s your background? How did you get your first tech job?” Ask it!
    • What’s it like to be a junior employee in your organisation?
    • How many women do you have in your tech team? 
    • What does your company do to help support minorities entering the world of tech?
  • When you hear something mentioned you’ve not heard of, consider asking “sorry, what’s X?” (Eg. “Sorry, I don’t think I’ve heard of Cucumber?“). It’s ok and very normal not to have heard of things, and asking about them will impress who you’re talking to.
    • When they start explaining, make a note of the name of the thing, and say something like “Thanks for explaining, I’ll look this up more when I get home“.
    • “Do you know where I can learn more about X?”
  • Personally take a note of everyone’s email address whom you meet.
    • You can easily get this “Do you have an email address? Mind if I drop you an email later if I have anymore questions about FooCorp or X technology?”
    • “Sorry what’s your name? Do you mind if I grab your email address?”
    • If they want your email, give it them – but insist on taking their name & email too.
  • Follow up afterwards with everyone!
    • After the fair, on the same day, go home and email, tweet every single company or person you spoke to. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
    • You can say “Thanks for explaining about XYZ at the event today.
    • You can say “@steve Great to meet you today Steve, reading up about cucumber and test driven development now – thanks for the pointers!“.
    • You can say if you don’t have a name of a person: “Just wanted to write and thank the Foocorp team for taking the time to explain about your project management process to me today – I’m reading up more about Scrum – do you know any good resources I could go look at?
    • You can ask “Great to learn a bit about Foocorp today, do you have any more info or links about that thing you mentioned?”
    • If you can find them on LinkedIn and you had a good chat, add them! (This is not an alternative to following up properly)
    • This is a general life pro tip. If you get good at sending a message after you meet people, you will be lucky much more often than you feel is statistically likely.

Don’t:

  • Whilst you’re there, you may see people “drive-by-CVing” where they’ll waltz past a stand, give their CV and run away. This is a time consuming method advanced method called “not getting a job”. Sure, perhaps someone has a story of it working, but a stopped clock is right twice a day.
  • bother asking about pay. Lots of people will tell you highs, lows, and averages – but they’re all pretty pointless. You’re most interested in learning what YOU will earn. No-one will tell you until they interview you and offer you a job.  And there’s so much more to your first job than pay – for example – whether you hate everyone you work with, or like everyone you work with. Tech salaries are good – there is a time to ask and think about whether what you’re being offered is fair – but don’t bother trying this part at the employment fair stage. :)
  • The employment fair isn’t about your porfolio, level of experience, CV, etc so I’d suggest not focusing on these things too much beforehand. It’s just not time well spent. If you want to help yourself, read the next section and/or consider making index cards of questions you could ask people.

All you need to know to rock it and be one of the wisest people at the event:

Do:

  • Before the day, Google each of the companies who are listed as coming. Make a note of those who you’re most interested in talking to, and least interested. Prioritise your time and chat to those you’re most interested in learning more about. The companies will be very happy if you know vaguely what they do already too.
  • Turn up early. I don’t mean on-time, I mean, be there 10-15mins early. There’s a lot of companies to talk to. Even if you’re not allowed in early, it’ll be worth it. If you are let in early, go talk to people who look mostly setup and ready.
  • Talk to the downtrodden, small, less grand, stands. They may be smaller, they may look the least organised – this may be indicative that they’ll more focused on doing the thing you’re interested in, rather than “professionally hiring people”. Be wary of flashy, well organised stands with lots of branded outgoing people. They may not be as representative of organisations that value all the things you value most. Give the small and large stands equal attention.
  • As well as real life, talk to everyone on twitter.
    • I get it – chatting to people is your worst nightmare – that was why I first started playing with computers too. Talking to people gives you a massive edge – even when you feel you’re pushing yourself to be the most social you can be. It’s not easy, and face-to-face is hard and scary. Fortunately there are tools that can can make it slightly less intimidating.
    • Ask other people on twitter who you can see who went to the event “@jane12345 I loved #eventhashtag too! Who were your favourite people to chat to?
    • [Before the event]: Companies who you want to chat to  ”@foocorp Looking forward to chatting to you on Fooday! Will there be anyone at #eventhashtag who I can chat to about <specific area you’re interested in – eg front end, back end, java, project management, marketing, whatever>?
    • [After the event]: Companies who you
    • To the organisers: “@eventorganisers Thanks for organising #eventhashtag today – so great to chat to everyone – thanks for all the effort you put into making it happen”
    • Use the hashtag in all your tweets.
    • Keep a twitter search going for that hashtag.
    • Follow every who looks mostly relevant.
    • psst. I think the hashtag is #MDTalentDay ;)

Don’t

  • bother chatting to recruitment agents or recruitment agencies. They’ll be very good at talking. That’s their job. They’ll be very organised. This is their job. They’re also 100% less worth chatting to at this event than the companies who hire people directly. And if you get hired directly, you’ll probably work for a company where you’ll be happier, who’ll pay you more. And everyone will be happy about this. All recruitment agents will dispute this assertion, and suggest that they’re different from the majority in this regard.  My suggestion is only to talk to recruitment agents when you’ve spoken to every single other company at the event. If you find yourself in a conversation with one by accident, here’s some ways to escape:
    • Great to chat to you. I’m going to go mingle and make the most of the event.
    • I’m supposed to be meeting my friend now – catch you a bit later.
    • Sorry I’m not interested.
    • Thanks, I already gave you my info though!
    • “I’m not a student sorry!”
    • <speak in foreign language>
  • care about freebies. Freebies are dull. Competitions are rubbish. Get a job. Then buy yourself “freebies”. 10 minutes of your time at this fair is worth more than a mars bar.
  • go round in a group. Let your friends go round separate from you. You’ll be at an advantage on your own or in a pair.
  • Stop chatting to employers after you have one good conversation. Chat to as many people as you feel able to.
  • Pick up leaflets without talking to people. Find some kind of question to ask them. I’ve given you plenty – asking what technology they use is a good one. :)

What do you know about this? I got my first job through the precursor to this event and since then I’ve helped other friends meet their future employers at the event.

What other questions could be asked? What would you say?

Share your thoughts in the comments!


Used this article to get yourself something good? Consider dropping me an email or leaving a comment to say thanks!

DigiClimbMCR
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Like climbing? In digital? Join us for #DigiClimbMCR

Are you a climber? Set a new years resolutions to be more active? Spend most of your day behind a computer because you work in technology or creative industries?

#DigiClimbMCR is an informal, weekly Wednesday evening climbing meetup in central Manchester for any friendly person linked to or interested in technology or digital & creative industries.

—– Q&A —–

When? About 6:30pm til people get tired or 10pm, on Wednesday evenings.

Where? How can I get there? Manchester Climbing Centre in Ardwick. The postcode is M12 5ND Map and there is lots of parking for cars and bikes (inside).

If you’re travelling by bus from Manchester city centre, get on the 205 or 206 buses from Piccadilly gardens to Bennett Street (you can check their Timetables here)

How much will it cost? No more than £15.25 (assuming you’ve never climbed there before, you’re not a student and you need to hire equipment). It could well be cheaper for you - their pricing page is fairly clear.

I’m not very good at climbing, is that ok? Yes! You should be able to belay and tie in, and pass MCC’s minimum skills thing – but in terms of grading or confidence – the wider variety the merrier! Climbing is about personal challenges and encouraging each other to push themselves.

I’ve never climbed before, is this for me? Probably not yet. :(

In the near future, it’d be awesome if there we knew we had enough competent climbers to invite beginners along. For this first one, it probably isn’t the right time to figure this part out. Stay tuned, perhaps give me a shout so I know you’re interested – and we’ll figure something out soon!

I’m not very good at digital, is that ok? Yes. It doesn’t matter what your background, level of technical expertise, job title – you’re reading this – so therefore you’re welcome. :)

How will I recognise people when I’m there? Look for the guy with the big white Mercedes cap sitting in the cafe area opposite reception. Or if you’re a bit late, come down and look for this guy

What, y’know, happens? We meet up. We climb together in pairs or small groups. We chat. We go home.

Is this bouldering or climbing? Mostly roped climbing, but some people do bits of bouldering to warm up and warm dow. I’d be up to for a bouldering-only #digiclimbmcr sometime! Let’s figure it out!

Is it definitely always, forever on Wednesday? No. Though this is what we’re going to try for the moment.

Is diversity important? Very. #DigiClimbMCR is a welcoming and inclusive space – we want you to be comfortable and feel welcome with us!

Isn’t this a tiny niche? I think it’s larger than some might imagine. At least two Manchester tech companies already have their own informal climbing meetups.

Why? Why do this? I like climbing, and I like chatting about technology with people from the same industries. How Might We combine the two?

Is there anything similar like this? Not for climbing. I would encourage you to check out Freshwalks, DigiHike, DigiCurry, Creative Cup, and the entire northwest tech calendar for similar sorts of events.

Who is behind all this? @tdobson

Is this on facebook? We have a group, with regular events.

Can I receive upcoming event announcements by email? Yes. Sign up here:


I have another question? Send me a tweet!

Plans on the horizon
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Nearterm 2017 plans!

My plans for the next month or so, are fairly focused:

  • Setup the #DigiClimbMCR meetup
  • Research how people climb, and use fitness apps, by spending almost as much time at MCC as possible.
  • Launch #TimOnLoan and loan myself for ~2+ weeks to small/exciting companies in Manchester

I’m looking forward to sharing how I get on with you all as I go along.

Thanks for all your support this year you all!

Pen Y Fan
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This one time I screwed up leadership and communication

When I was 18, I lead a team of young people into a 12 hour sailing race.
I was relying on the support of a bunch of their parents, but because we’d all done it before the previous year without a hitch, I assumed I didn’t need to communicate directly with these key team members. Primarily as a result of lack of communication, they pulled their support at last minute, leaving 50% of the team at the venue, with no boat or support team.
There’s a happy ending in a sense – that the remaining 50% of the team and I, were able to join with another struggling team, and gain the best race position in the club’s history [which was intensely pleasing].
However, it’s soured with the realisation that I failed to take any responsibility for the communication and organisational failures that lead to the key team members withdrawal.
I should have made sure to have conversations with them, to make sure it was still on their agenda and then, when it went pear-shaped, accepted more readily that [whilst I felt frustrated with the people] there was more I could and should have done.
Has there ever been times you’ve messed up and learnt from it? Let me know in the comments below.
Bytemark at LRL 09
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How I came to work at Bytemark

At the end of September, I left my job at Bytemark where I’d worked for the previous 6 years.

I’ll be sharing more, about the future in due course, but I was reflecting on my path to Bytemark.


I first was introduced to technology by the #manlug IRC channel, where I quickly became affiliated with the local fundamentalist free software group (and not ‘open source’), launched by Matt Lee. Matthew gave the first talk of that group about – as I seem to remember – how lack of open source cpanel was a big issue.

Lots of members of that IRC channel were Bytemark customers, and one (later, briefly) even went on to become an employee.

I remember going to LugRadioLive 2008 – where Bytemark had installed LTSP on some servers and figured out some way to run Team Fortress on them via WINE or something. For their efforts mbloch and employees [at the time] ahowells & lupine were given some kind of miniprize of tshirts by the LugRadio crew.

Bytemark at LRL 09

Bytemark at LRL 08

Around that time I was helping one of the largest Manchester tech community events to date, and managed to persuade Matthew to sponsor it (eg I asked, and Matthew said “yes”).

One of my two first jobs was as a contract Xen sysadmin for BBC R&D, (relying heavily on Skemp‘s work on xen-tools !), and also for a VoIP provider. When we needed a virtual server, and the VoIP company’s existing hosting supplier couldn’t provide Ubuntu because their bought-in virtualisation platform didn’t support it, I emailed Matthew to go to York and have a chat. We were very nervous about hosting VoIP servers in a datacentre in those days.

We went on to buy several servers, and I spent several months annoying the support team with correct and incorrect diagnosises of networking issues that may or may not have related to Bytemark. (I was a bit like a monkey with a sword using mtr at that point – I knew it was powerful, but I couldn’t always point it with the right end).

Around the middle of 2010, I was subscribed to the dolphin emporium mailing list, and looking for something technical, with clearer troubleshooting possibilities available. VoIP call quality issues are surprising tough to do automated monitoring on, and it seemed like there must be more clear-cut types of technical problem to diagnose. My thought was that web hosting had to be easier – either the web server was there, or it was not – nobody could complain that only half the page was there, or that it sounded like it was underwater.

I tried to get into M247, Melbourne, (M247 said no, Melbourne said they wanted more Windows experience), considered approaching some others, and then I saw this Bytemark job posting on the debian-uk mailing list.

I remember feeling terribly underprepared for the job interview. I knew about ~1/3 of the technologies mentioned, and had used very few of them. This was my dream job, but I felt the chances of me getting it were.. “slim”. But y’know, you gotta try! The first time I read about Varnish and caching proxies was on the train to York for the interview!

My sense is that the interview didn’t go ‘well’. I didn’t complete the technical task within the timeframe given, and I was conscious of that and pitched myself right at the low end of the spectrum.

A few days later, my heart leapt when I got an email offering me a job. I accepted and celebrated with a curry.

And so with the start of November 2010, so began my time at Bytemark in the office in Turing house.

If you’d told me then, where I’d be in 6 years time, I never would have believed you. But that’s for the next blog post!


Feel free to check out my LinkedIn profile.

SleepyClean
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What I learned from a landing page

Recently I’ve been working on canvas and landing page for a Muse business.

SleepyClean Lean Canvas

SleepyClean Lean Canvas


Let me explain where I started:

What I was aiming for

Dave suggested to me that I might want to look at Tim Ferris-style Muse-businesses – lifestyle businesses that might at some point generate passive income. Not startups. By listening through some of the examples, I figured that finding a niche that you could get someone else to do all the fulfilment for was the aim.

The problem

I saw some people chatting on twitter about how to get their down sleeping bags cleaned. They linked to a poorly written page on a cleaning company website that explained you could post them your sleeping bag, with a cheque and your contact details, and they’d send it back. It seemed that unless you knew about this page, there’d be no way you’d find it.

Down (feather) sleeping bags are quite delicate, and so cleaning them seems a faff, you have ~5 options:

  • Don’t clean
  • Hand wash in the bath
  • Machine wash (perhaps using a special product
  • Dry clean
  • Get professionally cleaned by specialists

Some people recommend different things. Most of the labels on the sleeping bags tell you not to do anything. I’ve washed mine in the washing machine before, but drying it was a pain. It’s not easy.

Synthetic sleeping bags are somewhat easier, more robust, often cheaper, and people seem more comfortable washing them as normal.

Minimum viable research

I posed this question to my twitter followers:

How much did you pay for your sleeping bag?

The results:

  • 30% paid over £100
  • whilst 21% paid over £150.

My guess was that the owners of the more costly sleeping bags (often down ones) would want to look after them better.

Minimum viable landing page

SleepyClean

SleepyClean

I used a template to put together a quick landing page, did some bootstrap+mailchimp hack to get a popup saying “we’re not quite ready” if anyone tried to order, hooked in the analytics, and at last minute, removed most of the references to me from the page.

You can take a look at either a full page screenshot, or the site itself if it’s still online.

Stealth testing

I posted the landing page to my facebook, probably breaking Tomer Sharon & Steve Blank’s rules, and without hinting that I had anything to do with the site, posted a link and:

How do you wash your sleeping bag? Anyone got experience using anything like this?

Sleepyclean - full page screenshot

Sleepyclean – full page screenshot

I was lucky to get an interesting stream of advice explaining how people currently did it:

  • suggesting I bought a down wash thing, and took it to a laundry
  • they always dry cleaned
  • they washing machine/laundry
  • “If the label says not to machine wash, you can probably ignore it”
  • many synthetic sleeping bag owners put their in the washing machine
  • “I wash my down bag on a cool, gentle wash with a down wash that I got from Cotswold. Then tumble dry it on a low heat for multiple hours with a couple of tennis balls to keep it fluffed up”
  • “How much do you lot piss and vom in your bags!? I’ve never washed mine. Just air it out in the sunshine.”
  • “I washed my down bag once. Never again – it took forever to wash, even longer to dry, then sat for hours teasing the down clumps apart. After the bottle of special down soap, long cycle on the machine, and hours of tumble drying down the laundry, fifty quid isn’t far off the cost of diy. Avoid having to do this too often by always using a bag liner.”
  • “I recommend I send our down bags to them every year to get professionally cleaned. It costs £35 I think per bag plus £10 postage. They are in and when I searched a few years ago for professional cleaners of outdoor stuff they were the only ones mentioned in the UK. They can also make repairs and add feathers. Wouldn’t dream of putting my £300 down bag through a normal washing machine!”

I did similar on twitter, and got a similar range of replies.


The last two replies give a kind of hope – there’s one person saying that they’d pay for it, and another person saying that they have in the past. These are reassuring responses.

In a sense, replies like this:

aren’t a problem at all – they demonstrate people who aren’t in the target segment, who struggle to imagine what it’d be like to be in the target segment. If you don’t have a £300 sleeping bag, it’s fairly difficult to imagine there are people who do.


The future

Having said all that, I think this may be the end of the road for this idea. I’m going to keep the site live, and I’ll keep an eye on the stats, but I have some worries about it that put me off investing further in it at this point:

  • The revenue/markup is too low
  • and the market is too small.

The revenue stream that I can imagine is very weak. The operating profit I can visualise, is quite meagre, and I can’t think of a way to streamline that without being a laundry.

The market seems smaller than I’d hoped for, and to need the product even less than I predicted. As in, even people who would use it, would seek to avoid using it as much as possible. It makes loads of sense, I just failed to predict that clearly.

Data

Not one person who has visited the site has clicked the buy buttons, or signed up to the mailing list.

  • 0% conversion.

Reflections

  • This is a good thing. I have learnt all this before investing greater time & energy
  • I perhaps could have got similar learning by posting a competitor website to facebook and asking the same question
  • testing in my facebook friends is probably not good enough
  • I’ve learnt a lot about building landing pages, and this is perhaps one of the best things. I’m going to use those skills for my next thing.

Stay tuned, I’ll share more thoughts and learnings soon!

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Can motorists and cyclists ever be friends?

My friend Josh recently posted on twitter:

“The weird thing is there is literally nothing bad about more people cycling yet there is a cultural war against it.”

Cyclists often feel marginalised— like everything has been setup to favour those with four wheels and an engine.

And if you get into the vehicles, and talk to the people behind the wheel —  the drivers often feel marginalised — like everything is changing, and none of it is changing in their favour.

Whoever you feel has the strongest claim to being correct, understanding that both groups include some people who feel marginalised, is probably a good step to figuring out solutions.

I agree with Josh. I do think more people cycling would be a good thing. But without support from those who are driving, it will probably be difficult to make significant leaps of progress to better infrastructure. It is a chicken and egg problem.

So how can cyclists gain support from other road users? How can cyclists get motorists to say “well, y’know, I’m probably going to keep driving, but still, cycling is something we should see more of”?


In 2014, Harry Potter actress Emma Watson gave a 10 minute speech at to the UN. Perhaps take a moment to (re)watch it. I like the content, but instead of listening to the content, perhaps think about how she is presenting her issue.
In her speech, she’s representing a marginalised group who sometimes have had difficulty communicating their perspective to another group. One reason the second group sometimes struggle to be receptive, is that they feel marginalised and targeted. And usually vicious cycle ensues where no-one listens to each other.

This is how Emma gets around the vicious cycle:

“How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited to participate in the conversation? Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too.”

“I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society. I’ve seen young men suffering from illness, unable to ask for help for fear it will make them less of a man …. I’ve seen men fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are.”

Emma diffuses the situation by acknowledging the difficulties of those in the “other” group who feel marginalised, and brings the challenges they face together with the challenges the original group bring. She goes on to suggest by combining forces, they can work on all the challenges together.

She’s not appealing to lawbreakers or people who hold strongly held opposing views, she’s appealing to a silent majority apathetic and disempowered bystanders and is saying “together we can make this better”.

If you like feel-good movies, you may have seen Pride (2014) — a true story of how, in the midst of the mining strikes of the 1984/1985, a group of Lesbian & Gays formed a group to support the miners.

You see a similar thing that Emma does, repeated by the Lesbians & Gays in Pride:

  • When they go out of their way to support the mining communities, including those who ‘beat them up when they were young’.
  • When they realise they can win over the least tolerant people in the village by helping them with something that they want.

By supporting those communities who felt most marginalised, the marginalised Lesbian & Gays were able to build stronger allies — from Wikipedia:

Miners’ labour groups began to support, endorse and participate in various gay pride events throughout the UK, including leading London’s Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in 1985. Additionally, at the 1985 Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, a resolution committing the party to the support of LGBT rights passed, due to block voting support from the National Union of Mineworkers. The miners’ groups were also among the most outspoken allies of the LGBT community in the 1988 campaign against Section 28.


And when we think back to Josh’s tweet — the marginalised-feeling cyclists, and marginalised-feeling motorists makes me think…

Perhaps there’s more in common between these groups than either of them realise?

I wonder who will be the first to find a way to include both groups, and all their concerns, into a campaign that is for everyone?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts in the comments or on twitter


 I cycle and drive a white van, which has let me gain some perspective from both sides of the wheels.

Van + stars
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My 7 aims for 2016.

Last year was tough.

It was so tough, that I didn’t write any resolutions or plans, because I couldn’t divert any outward energy to them, and didn’t feel I was able to write candidly without self-censoring. So I wrote no plans.

This year I’m going to try to be more transparent – my current aims for this year are something like:

  • Find someone who’ll love and support me, and let me love and support them.
    • So we can explore our journeys together.
  • Ingest as much information and knowledge about relationships in whatever forms I can: books, talks, audiobooks etc.
    • So I understand more, and at least know where to look if I need to quickly develop skills I don’t have, which help me be a better partner.
  • Improve and polish the van to make it more desirable to live in
    • So that it’s more polished, more comfortable and could grace the pages of insufferable lifestyle magazines.
  • Get fitter by doing more hiking & climbing
    • So I feel physically & technically fit enough to consider more outdoor challenges.
  • Travel, explore and see the country (and others).
    • To see the world from different perspectives
  • Learn Javascript programming and AngularJS so I can build simple web apps.
    • So I can play around with building ideas that might make other people happy
  • Figure everything else out.
    • So there are answers to the unanswered questions in my life.

This is a snapshot (accurate only on the day it was posted) of constantly evolving plans. If I decide that one of those isn’t so important, it may be removed, changed etc – and that’s ok.

So here’s one last thought, if you’re able to help me take any small footsteps towards getting closer to any of those goals: recommending, suggesting, encouraging, supporting etc. then you’ll be helping me with exactly what I want to be – and I’ll be incredibly grateful.

If that’s anything I can do to support you then I’d love to know, to see what I can do – I appreciate you taking the time to read this. :)

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Can we use coloured text to speed up reading?

According to Wikipedia:

German gothic text

German gothic text

In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → colour synesthesia or colour-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently coloured.

My thought is whether artificially helping people associate letters with colours, can increase the speed of reading, specifically, in ‘specially prepared’ texts read from a computer screen, but I’m also interested in whether it might persist away from there.

Why?

Most people read by pattern matching the first two letters (ish) of a word – it’s how the neolism Typoglycemia works: for how you can largely understand:

“Amzanig huh? Yaeh and you awlyas thguoht slpeling was ipmorantt.”

Often though, we’re reading text on a computer, that the computer can help us with. That is to say, a webpage, an email, an ebook. Computer manufacturers spend a lot of time developing typefaces that are easy to read, and hard to confuse the letters of (Google even came up with an entire typeface for Android).

But it’s not always possible or desirable to read things in typefaces that are different from the original,

My theory is that the brain can probably increase its word-based pattern matching skills, by assigning each letter of the alphabet a shade of colour.

This might sound like the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard or seen, but if you consider that programmers used syntax highlighting to quickly derive extra meaning from great blocks of text – it seems more reasonable that there might be some way of using colours to improve up pattern matching when reading words.

So take a look at this prototype colourphabet I just threw together.

qwertyuiop

asdfghjkl

zxcvbnm

so

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

You’re not the only one thinking “this is much harder to read than ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’” and I don’t propose that I’ve solved this, or got anything more than the start of a stupid-sounding idea.

I wonder if it might better apply with different colour pallets, or perhaps colour pallets applied to different words in sentences – perhaps based on adjective/verb/etc… or something else?

How would you improve it? I’d love to hear your ideas!

IMG_1638
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How much money is the ideal amount of wealthy?

We’re taught that annual salary/’the amount of wealth’ we have is something that matters, so if we’re going to devote our lives towards working towards something, it makes sense to think about it carefully.

If you say “Would you like to be richer?” to people, most people will easily answer “yes”.

Ask people – “How much money (in GBP) do you think is the ideal amount of wealthy?” - say by specifically how much, and it becomes an order of magnitude harder to answer.


Perhaps the most interesting thing about this question is not what is the ideal amount of money, but what you think is the ideal amount of money.

Recently there was an article that at first glance is designed to enrage you (“‘We earn £190k a year. Do we need to sell our flat to afford private school fees?’”) and maybe it does – and yet perhaps there’s a powerful lesson to be learnt: “no matter how much cash you have, you can still be really stressed”.

There’s another lesson there too: “and when you have more than everyone else, people are less sympathetic to your stress”.

Another thing you don’t expect is something Paul Graham mentioned:

And one of the many weird little problems you discover when you get rich is that a lot of the interesting people you’d like to work with are not rich. They need to work at something that pays the bills. Which means if you want to have them as colleagues, you have to work at something that pays the bills too, even though you don’t need to. I think this is what drives a lot of serial entrepreneurs, actually.

You think you can see the upsides, can you also see the downsides?

So it’s worth considering – the question: “How much money (in GBP) do you think is the ideal amount of wealthy?”.


I’ve thought about this question a great deal, and I still don’t know my answer.

Having spoken to people in less economically developed countries who earn an order of magnitude less than me, my sense is that it’s difficult for them to imagine life could be stressful when earning what I do – and when my salary is a 10x multiple of theirs – you can see how it could be tough.

Put in perspective, it seems like the easiest way for me to answer the question isn’t to answer it at all – and to wholly separate wealth from happiness. Whilst this can’t be easy to take to heart, I think this must the right way.

I guess you can link wealth with quality of life, but it seems unwise to link wealth with happiness directly.


For anyone else, it really comes down to the much harder question “What do you want from life?”. “What would you do or want *if* you had tons of cash? Once you know that, you’ll know find it easier to answer this question.


How would you answer it? What do your friends say?


P.s. I think my answer to “What do you want from life” is “an enjoyable journey” – but that’s another blog post