Tech, sustainability and food: what I learnt in January


January is a good time for a holiday.

Things are feeling a bit momentous today, and not just because it’s the end of the first month of the new decade.

This is my first blog of the year: I’ve stopped doing weeknotes so I suppose this monthly roundup could be called a ‘worknote’. So here are a few highlights from January.

Meetups attended

Oxford Technology and Media Network: the first event in their ‘10 Years to Save The World’ series was an interview with ‘humanitarian designer’ Vinay Gupta.

What I learnt: There are simple ways to save the world (refugee shelters) and complex ones (blockchain technology).

Oxford Digital Workers Union: SEO consultant Helen Pollitt spoke on ‘SEO underdogs: Winning against your competition no matter their size’.

What I learnt: being small is your secret weapon, because you can act quickly to capitalise on trends. (I also liked Helen’s image of content ‘legacy mess’ being like a plate of spaghetti.)

Creative Meetup: an informal round-table for sharing questions and ideas.

What I learnt: some of my fellow creatives have got some really inspiring ideas. Can’t say anything yet but I hope to spread the word when the time comes.

Women in Sustainability Oxford: the theme was Food in the Future: Where is it all heading?

We heard about food systems globally and locally. Dr Monika Zurek told us about the research on food systems being done at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, and we also heard from Oxford Food Bank, which collects and redistributes surplus food, and Good Food Oxford, a sustainable food network.

What I learnt: a change in one part of a system causes change elsewhere, so maybe we shouldn’t all go vegan all at once.  Also, you can now make 3-D printed cookies.

This month’s achievement

Copy-editing a 30,000-word report on South Sudanese NGOs. I learnt a lot!

Tweet of the month

This one from Jonathon Colman.

It also works for copy-editing!


Tweet with the words: “Want to understand something complex? It's helpful to ask people what they mean when they say what they say. Keep asking until *they* know what they mean.”

Best hashtag


Because 2nd January is World Introvert Day.

On my reading list

The new Readability Guidelines book from Content Design London. I’m really looking forward to using this.

In the news

As I write this, Led By Donkeys are trending on Twitter.

If you haven’t come across them before, they call themselves “a Brexit accountability project”, and they’ve been running a crowdfunded advertising campaign highlighting the, let’s say, inconsistencies in things that politicians have said about leaving the EU.

Their swansong has been a projection onto the white cliffs of Dover featuring two World War II veterans and the European flag. It’s very moving.

As it happens, I’ve just been reading their book (also called Led By Donkeys), which tells the story of this almost accidental campaign. The story was that it was dreamed up in the pub by four ordinary dads, but that’s not quite true: the individuals in question – who broke their anonymity in an interview with the Observer – do have backgrounds in campaigning (I’ve actually met one of them). However, this was an amateur operation carried out in between day jobs and family commitments.

Apologies to any pro-Brexit readers – Oxford is an internationalist city and I am in a bit of a ‘remainer’ bubble here –  but it’s a fascinating read for anyone involved in campaigning.

Picture projected onto the white cliffs of Dover: a blue background with a single yellow star and the words "This is our star. Look after it for us."

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