Another four day week, and busy with publisher meetings and contractual discussions with a new client. The biggest change from the routine was going into London for the first time in months to take a family member to an appointment at Moorfields: after years of going in every day, London felt disconcertingly quiet. But while I waited, I was able to have a socially distanced catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in person for fifteen months. The travel would have been worth it for that alone.
This week’s small improvement to the website was starting to use Quotebacks in place of plain blockquotes, which I think improves the styling and citation of quotes in these notes. There was a nice piece of synchronicity in being able to use Craig Mod’s new essay on coding as an example in this post, as it’s eloquent on the intrinsic satisfaction of tinkering with a website:
The real joy of this project wasn’t just in getting the search working but... [g]etting lost for hours in a world of my own construction. Even though I couldn’t control the looming pandemic, I could control this tiny cluster of bits... With static sites, we've come full circle, like exhausted poets who have travelled the world trying every form of poetry and realizing that the haiku is enough to see most of us through our tragedies.
This week I read Will Page’s new book Tarzan Economics: Eight Principles for Pivoting Through Disruption. Will was the Chief Economist at Spotify and PRS. I have to declare an interest as he is also an acquaintance: we were introduced by Matt Locke of Storythings, and I first heard the thinking behind the book over a coffee outside the British Library. The title is based on a simple metaphor: if the vine that you’re holding is withering, you need to swing to another one—such as music’s move from CDs and downloads to streaming. In that transition, Page sees a set of principles that apply to other industries facing disruption. I found it a convincing mix of vivid anecdotes and economic theory expressed in an accessible way—the references to Marx throughout the book are to Groucho, not Karl. I particularly liked his description of personality types at Spotify which rang true with my experience of startups and corporates:
The builders are leaving, and the farmers are moving in... the people who built Spotify are leaving, and the people who will run Spotify are taking over. The builders value flexibility, creativity and agility those are the attributes they used to build the company, to make Spotify out of nothing. But the people who are taking over as we prepare to go public are more like farmers. They want to reap the benefits of Spotify for years to come. So they're obsessed with process, predictability and frameworks.