Weeknote: Sunday 2nd August 2020

I try not to grumble too much when I’m writing these notes. However, 36 degree heat isn’t really the kind of thing that I enjoy, and it’s not the kind of thing that British homes are built for.

Autumn is my season. I have always thought that the reason I love autumn is that I spent a long time in education – seven years including my degree and post-graduate studying – and autumn still feels like the start of the year. I’m not an academic, but I still feel the rhythms of the academic calendar in my blood.

Most of what I’ve been working falls firmly into the bucket marked “business confidential” so I can’t really talk about it much. Meanwhile the garden is dry and needs more watering, every time I look at the lawn at the back I’m reminded that it’s actually mostly composed of moss, and the roses have got too high and really need pruning right back. When your roses are higher than your bird feeders, something has gone a bit wrong.

The errant roses
The errant roses

Meanwhile, in tech world…

Google got accused of retaliation against Blix for the company’s cooperation with antitrust investigations. Of course, this is only part of the story, but imagine for one second that this was Apple booting someone out of their App Store – how much coverage would you have seen in the tech sites, compared to how much coverage this got?

(A small break, while I decamp to the shade of the living room – the iPad Pro can deal with quite a bit of heat, but not as much is the Sun is giving it right now…)

Steven Soderbergh’s version of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yes please.

The dreary hand of politics

The de-skilling and reduction in competitiveness caused by Brexit and the Tories lack of understanding of modern management will continue to the point where Britain falls out of the G8. A lot of this is down to the Tories perverse misunderstanding of the outside world: the idea that “high cost labour” and “rules” are “holding Britain back” rather than poor management, low training, and lack of technical investment. They look at Singapore as a role model and learn the wrong lessons.

Their ideology means they can’t look at Germany (say) abs ask “what can we learn from high German productivity?” because their Brexit thinking is that Germany is rich because it’s been ripping off Britain via the EU.

Because the EU is seen through the lens of empires, it contains two kinds of state: dominant, and subjects. In their heads it’s a Franco/German empire, and so the reason Germany does well is because it exploits Britain.

All this, of course, is nonsense. But it’s their ideology.

Myths of decline is an interesting look at how the “two cultures” approach, coupled to a view that British science is second-rate thanks to the dominance of liberal arts in universities, isn’t really true. There is so much to unpick here: the British view that technical education should happen at school and university, delivering a pipeline of skills that companies want, for one thing.

This idea is nonsense for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the biggest error is that it attempts to absolve business from the hard work (and expense) of training. Ironically, in the polytechnics we had a great collaborative system: polytechnics often specialised in degree-level technical education focusing on the needs of local business. That’s why, for example, Hatfield Polytechnic had brilliant aeronautical engineering degrees, as BAE was a big local employer.

There’s some great points in this piece on ”8 Lessons from the Best Remote Companies in the World”. So many companies struggling to catch up on this, especially in the UK where the culture of “presenteeism” has been historically strong (and clearly believed-in by the government, who are desperate to reopen offices rather than support remote working).