Hello from a hipster cafe on the Chania seafront.
There’s a westerly gale and the water's rough, but the first swimmers of the summer are still braving it. Joggers speed past on the promenade; young families in matching flip-flops; a woman with a Border Collie in a pram. Behind me an elderly couple, tourists, are having midday beers. I've been trying to place their accent since I sat down, but the wind and the lounge music keep drowning out their conversation. The mountain of Stavros looms across the bay, oblivious to it all. It’s May.
So – this is a rather disjointed post to share a few things. Which after all is what newsletters are for, right?
I spent much of my newslettering time last week going through the archive of posts, refreshing some links and updating here and there. The reason: I switched newsletter provider again (actually, back to Ghost). If you’re reading this via email, all you’ll notice is the formatting looks better, back to how it was a few months ago. And the email you're receiving from is back to
firstname.lastname@example.org (please whitelist that if you haven't yet, so it doesn’t go to spam). But the main outwardly visible difference is the website, which is much improved from that of my old provider, better organised, and – for now at least – just feels right. Do check it out and let me know what you think.
Anyway, this transition process sparked many thoughts on personal publishing, and the rationale and benefits and the best tools and processes for it. Some of these I'll fashion into a future post. But for now I'll say this: we need more personal publishing. Everyone should do it. Including you.
Since I started this newsletter two years ago, I've done around 90(?) posts. Many didn't hit the mark, and some I later shifted opinion on (which is another reason for the updates I was making this week). But the process, that cadence of sorta-weekly writing with mid-season breaks, has really giving me something of value in aggregate. It forced me to develop my views on topics I care about.
It's never been easier to share stuff online. But when I say we need more publishing, I mean blogging and newsletters. Podcasts and video can make for insightful discussions. Social media, for all its ills, makes it easy to supply off-the-cuff thoughts – and helps you distribute them, too.
But to sit down with the thread of an argument, not knowing what you really think about it, and a short time later emerge knowing better where you stand.... the only way I know to do that is via longform writing.
Because writing is thinking. And sharing it provides the accountability and rhythm and discipline to do that thinking regularly. It's an enormously beneficial process – a bicycle for the mind. And that's before anyone has even read what you're putting out. Start today – for free.
Something else I started doing last week: working from a co-working space, WorkHub. I wandered in on Monday and ended up going every day. It felt deliciously weird; as a remote worker it's the first time I’ve been in an office for a solid week since… 2011?
I'm sold. You get all the benefits of office dynamics — other workers around, visibly and sometimes noisily at it; water-cooler chat for breaks; a results-oriented environment that won't let you procrastinate (doubly so since you're paying for your time). With... none of the drawbacks! Arrive when you feel like it, leave when you're done. And nobody will disturb you if you're doing deep work.
It feels like cheating. I’m going to do it more. But not too much. Flexibility is mental health, and all that.
PS I've also learned that standing desks really are a thing. Not sure I like them though.
Finally: with the team at DiEM25, we made a deepfake last week. It was for our bid in the Bremen regional election, and features German political leaders confessing their crimes before endorsing our little party. (We almost called the video 'Deeptruth', but it felt cheesy.)
After all I’d read on deepfakes and the fear around them, I was nervous to release it. We slapped a disclaimer on the video - this is satire - so there was no ambiguity and a minimum of legal protection. Then we projected it on a building in Bremen's busy centre just before election day and released it online.
The video fell flat (as did our electoral bid, even though it was an internal win for us and a great learning experience). The main lesson, though? It’s trivially easy to make this kind of stuff. I scripted it in half an hour; Davide Castro, our social media coordinator, then took two days to build it, using various beta apps he found online. Two days.
Davide is a brilliant editor. But the tools are getting easier to use all the time, the barriers to entry for this tech are falling away. Tomorrow's deepfakes won’t have disclaimers, and they'll come in waves. We should be ready.
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Alright, those are my updates. Thanks for reading, good luck with your projects, and see you next week.
PS Mystery solved: the beer-drinking couple are Scottish. At least that's the most likely answer. The woman got a call and the ringtone was: bagpipes...