Greg Morris

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Making The Right Compromises

Whenever the internet loses its mind on something, I find it fascinating. Not to join in with the hot takes, but to see and digest what makes a large proportion of people emotional and try to understand the world a bit better. In these instances, a large proportion of people become experts in the respective field being discussed. The most notable of which was everyone who turned into immunologists during the pandemic, but it constantly happens.

Recently, I read numerous opinions on the way Spotify is redesigning its app and everyone gives their feedback. Much of it being open criticism of the direction the company is leaning and the complete redesign of its mobile apps. This continually happens with services like Spotify because their users become invested in the service and are right to express their concern.

However, I think it’s important to remember that no-one outside of Spotify really knows how and why decisions are made. For the risk of becoming an internet expert, I feel like I have enough knowledge of the moving parts behind running a business. More so with the choices and compromises that have to be made when owning a product or launching a new one.

But it comes with a challenge. If you’re going to build this thing into the same application, you’re going to make it back to trade-offs. The trade-off is that you can’t just make the application more complicated. There are benefits to that, but there are also drawbacks - Gustav Söderström

The reality is, you seldom get the product you want to launch. There are a huge number of issues that crop up when designing and making such a complex thing that it can be amazingly frustrating. For fear of never launching anything, you quickly have to come to terms with the fact that perfection is the enemy. If you are expecting to get everything the way you want it, then you will be waiting a long time.

I listened with interest when Gustav Söderström talked to Alex Heath about the new redesign and also some of the compromises that had to be made when he launched the original Spotify mobile app back in 2010. He discussed how they know that the implementation of Podcasts into the new App is not perfect, but it’s the best compromise they can make. In a world where Apple Podcasts is used by 98.5 of users, there is just no point making another app.

Is it perfect, no, but it’s the best decision they can make for their users. There will always be people who don’t like the changes companies make and no longer use the product, that’s unavoidable. There is also be a vocal bunch that shut up and use the new update anyway – remember the fuss on Facebook newsfeeds back in the day?

Making a product is just one long stream of compromises and decisions based on the information you have. No-one has the same information as the people inside the company making decisions. I realise there is a whole industry built around criticising the designs that tech companies make, I used to be one of them, but there’s a level of understanding needed. I have not been a Spotify user for years now, but I understand exactly where Gustav Söderström is coming from.

Unfortunately, the market usually dictates when you have to move to survive, and it’s not always where you want to go. Thankfully, it sounds to me like he genuinely agonises over these things and wants the best for their users, and every so often you have to admit that user is not you any more.

Micro Blog

After 10 years, I think we can stop referencing Google Reader in every article that talks about RSS.

The Value Of Words

I am amazed at the usefulness of recent advancements in Large Language Model AI. Having it integrated into Notion, the tool I use most, has saved me a significant amount of time and increased my productivity at work. I use it to summarise meeting notes, write content from video scripts, and more. The cost pays for itself several times over in time saved – but that doesn’t mean I have no concerns.

The technology, synonymous with (not so)OpenAI, is being used by a wide range of companies. Microsoft is integrating it into Bing searches, and just last week, more apps began to use it. Google is building PaLM, their more generalised LLM, into Workspace, including Docs, Sheets, Mail, and Slides. Other companies are bound to follow, meaning that almost anything you see may not have been written by whom you attribute the words.

Google was the first to start my thoughts about the degradation of thought put into words with quick replies in messages and emails. If you can reply with a tap instead of thinking about what you write, the meaning loses its value somewhat. Now that AI-generated content is available everywhere, the words written by other people carry even less value.

This might seem absurd to say, for a little thank-you text or a one-line reply to an email. However, the Google demo video shows the sending of a “Thank You” message to “the team” which is verging on the ridiculous. As my Grandad would always say, “words are cheap, it’s actions that pay the bills” – when even the words are not written by you, it defeats the point, doesn’t it?

We’re not far from being able to run personalised LLM on a local machine with very little computing power. This will bring wonderful improvements to the way we work, especially in creative environments and offices. However, the weight of words will begin to matter less and less. If you cannot take the time to write and send a thank-you note or a thoughtful reply to your teams, then no one will believe in anything written.

Indexing A Used Notebook

I’m still really early in my notebook use, but I’ve filled a couple of them now. When I chose to use a notebook, I was already thinking about ways to make my notes findable. The action of writing them out manually increases my retention drastically, but I still want to be able to refer to them if needed. The most logical way to do this might be to copy the important ones into a digital service, but then comes the decision on what is important or not, so I decided to tag and index my notes.

The inspiration for this came from my belief that even with digital apps, you still require some kind of manual curation. If I can quote myself, “What I have noticed from this cycle of trying is that without conscious thought, digital tools can be just as bad as physical ones”. So, if I were to use a digital service, I would go through and tag everything with a rough topic – which can be done manually too. The last few pages are reserved for an index to list these tags and mark the page numbers.

This could, of course, be a massive waste of time, I will only know how this will go when I need to refer to them, but I hope that this will help. If nothing else, it has meant I spent a few minutes flicking through my notebooks and reviewing my notes, further improving my chance of recall. I am convinced of the improvements that carrying a notebook with me has made, and the great thing is I can mould the process as I go along.

I’m not one for monthly spreads and making my notebook pretty, my handwriting sucks anyway, it’s more of a tool for my brain. It reflects my scattered thoughts and working life, but I hope my indexing brings a little more order to it.

What Is My Notebook

I have now read three different translations of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Each one begins with some background information, details about the way it was written, and quite a bit of musing on what he was actually writing for. It wasn’t written as a book, nor for public consumption, but more as a personal journal or notebook. This got me thinking about my notebook and how it would be viewed if anyone stumbled across it after I’m gone.

A few people have asked me what I write in my notebook or what it’s for, and my answers are always abstract. There’s a bit of hand-waving and non-specific words because I find this almost impossible to answer. The general answer is everything. It contains notes about anything I think about. Thoughts, ideas, tasks I need to do, food orders, meeting notes – there’s not much that isn’t in there.

In truth, I consider it to be a personal self-help book. It contains loads of notes to myself on lessons learned and ideas to digest. It is both my instructor and my muse towards a better life. There are many notes that echo the meditations that Marcus wrote – words of encouragement to myself or a scolding for living wrong. It contains quotes I hear, things I want to research later, and all the other things that may be contained in a commonplace book, but with an equal amount of uselessness.

My notebook is highly personal, not because it contains anything embarrassing, but for the fact that it would be next to useless for anyone but myself (and you wouldn’t be able to read my handwriting). Embracing all of these manual processes is still fairly new to me, but I feel as if I have rediscovered a life hack. My notebook is always with me, stuffed in my back pocket with a pen, so I can write in it whenever I need to, and I couldn’t be without it.

Dealing With My Life

For far too long, we’ve had far too many meetings of professionals involved in my daughter’s care. She needs numerous medical appointments, but we also waste a lot of time talking about the things they think she needs. We spend even more time talking about what the rest of the family requires, especially myself and my wife.

They call us many nice things. Tell us that we require help and support, and then some more charming things. It’s all very pleasant. The reality is that, in their professional opinion, we can’t continue the way we do with little to no social care and compare us to other families in similar situations.

I am used to this by now. For many years, I have heard how we do “an amazing job” and that it “must be so hard” with what we go through. Which is lovely, but the truth is we know no other way. Lucie was our first child, so we’ve not experienced anything else. When others tell me I do more than I should, and that the situation we are in is hard, I get confused.

The words of Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck in Death: The End of Self-Improvement always rattle around my head.“it’s only unbearable for as long as you’re under the impression that there might be a cure” is the best explication for our continued ambivalence towards change. Nothing will ever improve, there is no end to the way our life is, so there’s nothing to lust after.

Perhaps if we had experienced a different life first, our outlook would be different? A friend of mine who has cereal palsy explained a similar thing to me when talking about his world view. He’s managed to achieve a lot in life and run his own business with a positive mindset because he’s lived with difficulty since birth. Individuals that have not experienced the same and have their life changed through an accident or illness often do not share the same mindset.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with asking for help, that is not the point I am reaching for. It’s more to say that the way I view things is directly related to my experience in life so far. Situations that others may perceive as hard or difficult do not seem so bad to me – mainly because there is some comfort in knowing that there’s no solution possible.