It’s Friday, March 25 2022 and an overcast day in Portland, Oregon. Yesterday was a bunch of work on obviously-as-important-as-strategy implementation work, or what are we going to do to get from here to there, and how are we going to do it.
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Yesterday was also a chance for exploring my idea for a set of something that might be like “training videos”, given that I keep getting more and more interest from people and organizations wanting to learn how to do what I do to get done what I get done.
I’m lucky to be friends with the frankly terrifyingly competent Lara Hogan, which means I’ve been lucky to learn a little about how Wherewithall works. This is not an ad: if you’re a manager or you work with managers and you want them to learn and improve, then you should check out their stuff. Anyway, that was a digression.
I keep thinking that yes, training videos make sense from a business business business numbers numbers numbers perspective, and yet training videos aren’t… my thing? But, you know. If someone did training videos in the style of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight…?
Which is why I spent yesterday jurry-rigging my iPhone balanced on top of a couple of Homepod Mini boxes and a hardcover of Leviathan Falls, leaned against the cap of my Code for America water bottle, pointed at me, testing different intros, one of which starts like this:
This is Better Strategy Now, the increasingly ill-advised set of short, sharp and candid strategy videos where someone with an English accent – me – yells at you, says all the things you secretly know are true but could never say out loud, and tops it all off by being witheringly sarcastic about how things really get done. I’m Dan Hon, I’ve had my coffee, so let’s get started with That’s The Wrong Problem, Dummy.
And then what I think is an excessively funny joke about a big IT system and a Chromebook.
Which is to say I had a bunch of fun, figured out how to use Davinci Resolve, got annoyed that my tricked out 2016 MacBook Pro is more than fast enough to handle the kind of editing I need to do and can’t justify a new computer on that basis alone, and well… I just wanted to share. It was fun.
I bring this up because my process for this entire thing has been “figure out what I don’t like about a thing I think I should do” and combine it with “actually listen to myself about what I think will work and what will be fun”, then I do end up with wanting to do something like Last Week Tonight, or at least inspired by it. Because blank sheets of paper are a difficult thing to deal with.
And I bring that up because now I have a list of segments to write and test: things like Back In Black from The Daily Show, But It’s Me Angry About Something, or The Colbert Report’s The Word, But It’s About Tech Management Doublespeak, or figuring out what I can teach through Imaginary Conversations With, like the one with the Bank.
I could feel guilty about this. I could make fun of myself (“oh no, I’m going to get so sued”) but I need to remind myself this: ideas don’t come from nowhere, they’re always inspired by something else, and there’s a difference between outright imitation and, well, being inspired and making it my own. I know enough the difference now, finally, at 42 what I think my voice is, and I can tell the difference between that and, say, John Oliver’s voice, and I also know enough now to try not to be someone or something else. Besides, when I do it enough, it’s more fun this way.
What’s the long a short of it? Well, it’s that Everything is a Remix.
No, really. One of my favorite games ever, one of which I was a co-moderator for the biggest player community, the game through I which I met my wife, the game through which I ended up at my first startup, co-founded my second, and has clearly been a massive part of my life, just own a Peabody Award: The Beast, A.I. Transmedia Experience Accepts Peabody Award. Look, like I said, I’m 42 now and I’ve developed enough of a sense of self to care a lot less what gatekeepers have to say (videogames already were art, damnit) but hey, it’s always nice to have your genre be professionally recognized.
Oh, and I’m in the awards acceptance video to tell you why this is such a big deal. So, so much love to Pete Fenlon, Elan Lee, Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman and the entire village it took to build a universe that changed everything for us.
I could, and will most likely, write more about this later.
So I’m still playing Semantle, the puzzle game where you try to guess a secret word based on how close your guesses are to that word in the vector space of word2vec, the thing that happens when you let an internet hoover up all the words, but not actually all the words because it turns out datasets reflect biases in the interpretation of the world but anyway.
Here’s an idea: if I had more time and energy and honestly, possibly if I were not a parent and exhausted yet also indescribably full of love and yelling, I would take the top, I don’t know, 10,000 English words, take the top 50 words closest in vector space to them, programatically format them and then squirt them into an ebook, call it the World’s First AI Thesaurus, sell it, and then maybe take the family out for dinner on the meagre proceeds.
So, someone should do that. Or someone should get in touch with me and then do, like, 85% of the work while I nod on in the background and make encouraging sounds.
That’s it for today!
Some quick notes before I go: I’m on holiday (vacation) next week, which means this newsletter, following the seasons and episodes metaphor, will be on hiatus. During that period, I will be doing what are called reruns. Unless nuclear war has broken out and my ability to deliver this newsletter has been materially impacted as to approach the level for me to reasonably invoke an otherwise non-existent force majeure clause in the contract we don’t have with each other, this newsletter will return on the 4th of April.
How have you been doing?