Today in references

March 28, 2023

Margaret Mitchell on AI

These systems, she said, are terribly suited to being integrated into search engines. They’re not trained to predict facts,” she told me. They’re essentially trained to make up things that look like facts.”

– From an Ezra Klein piece on AI in the NYT

March 19, 2023

Five things I like right now


Super into Ibrahim Maalouf.


Severance. Just started it though. No spoilers!


Just powered through the first three books of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards Sequence.


Made Babish’s Ted Lasso shortbread for the second time. Takes all day, but is so worth it.


Technology reveals the irrationality of organisations.

March 19, 2023 now

Five things I like right now


Makaya Craven’s Deciphering the Message is pretty great


Slow Horses. Burned through two seasons in pretty short order.


Denning and Dunham’s The Innovators Way.

Innovation, they write, is not simply an invention, a policy, or a process to be managed. It is a personal skill that can be learned, developed through practice, and extended into organizations


Hetty McKinnon’s Everything Oil is amazing.


Super niche, but I think I’ve changed my mind on the value of using specific journey mapping tools, like TheyDo or Smaply, over open-ended playgrounds like Miro.

March 19, 2023 now

Weeknote CW10

Big week? Huge week.

Something different. Using Mathias Jakobsen’s Question Cards rather than a play-by-play. Constraining these answers to work-related topics.


What do I wish would be different?

It’s gone from boy it’s quiet” to gosh it’s busy” in the space of a week. So while busy is always better than quiet in consulting, it all feels a bit frantic.


What am I happy about?

Well, the new busyness is good. And the busyness comes with associated interesting projects which is also good.


Which beliefs are holding me back?

It’s really apparent this year that my role is very much not on project delivery. It’s a bit less clear what my role actually is, other than leadership” which I’ve never been comfortable with. However, a colleague said to me recently that they thought I could start a cult if I wanted, which I choose to take as an acknowledgement of leader-y-ness.

So it might be time to lean into that discomfort with leadership.


When is my deadline?

My reaction to deadlines is always the Douglas Adams quote but in this case I honestly don’t know what the deadline is.

The point isn’t to win or end. The point is to keep playing.

March 12, 2023 weeknote

How to Read an Academic Paper in Ten Minutes

Reading an academic paper in 10 minutes is a bit of a cheat a clever tactic, but if you really do need to read it, you’re going to have to read the whole thing.

I used to give this advice to honours-level students when I was an academic. A friend prompted me for it yesterday so I dug this out and tidied it up.

In your career as a student, a researcher or a curious person, you will come across many more academic papers than you actually need to read. Reading” a paper in 10 minutes” is actually about using the structure of a typical academic paper to help you skim it in a constructive way. You should do this to decide if you need to put in the effort to read the whole thing.

The ultimate aim is, of course, to read the smallest number of papers as possible while having read all of the papers you need.

The Steps


First, read the title. Titles of academic papers are generally bad. Move on to the next step.


Second, read the abstract. The abstract is the authors’ summary of what they think the paper is about. Start with the first sentence, then skip to the last sentence.

If you’re convinced this is completely the wrong paper, STOP. Otherwise, you should probably read the whole abstract.


Third, skip right to the conclusion. Start with the first sentence, then skip to the last sentence. If you’re convinced this is completely the wrong paper, STOP. Otherwise, you should probably read the whole conclusion.

The conclusion will work in one of two ways. One way is that it will tell you the actual results of the research that was written about in the paper. If the results aren’t what you need, you should probably STOP. If they are interesting, keep going.

The other way a conclusion can work is it will say how the results of the research fit into a bigger picture. If you encounter this type of conclusion, you might need to jump back to the section before the conclusion to find the results. Just like the other type of conclusion, if these aren’t the results you need — STOP. Otherwise, keep reading.

If the results seem interesting, you are probably committed to going further, unless you’ve already decided that you’re not going to read this paper at all.

Maybe check the references

If you get this far, but don’t end up reading the whole thing, you might look through the references or bibliography for other, related, papers that are closer to what you’re actually going to read.


Fourth, go back to the beginning of the paper and skim through the headings. This will give you an idea of the structure of the paper.


Fifth, look at the pictures. See if there is information in the figures, tables and diagrams that you can use to decide if this paper is telling you something really useful.

By now you are well into it. You should know what the authors of the paper are trying to tell you, and you should be able to follow someone else talking about this paper in a seminar.

(HINT: do up to this step to read” the papers for seminars that your peers are giving)

If you are now convinced that this paper is not what you need: STOP. Otherwise, keep going.

Topic Sentences

Sixth, read the topic sentences of all the sections from the introduction to the conclusion. A topic sentence (in a well written paper) is the first sentence of each paragraph. Perhaps you could read the first and last sentence of each paragraph if you’ve got time to spare. Or if the paper is poorly written.

By now, you have read” the whole paper. Congratulations. Even more than that, you’ve been through it at least twice so you now know how it is structured, making it even easier for you to find things in it later.

Abstract (again)

Seventh, go back and read the abstract. (Yes, again!) You do this to cement in your head the authors’ summary of what they think the paper is about. Perhaps you disagree with them? Then you need to decide if they’ve written a bad abstract or if your understanding is flawed. (Or possibly both.)

Now, if you get to this point, you should more than likely STOP. Read no further unless you so completely convinced that this paper will allow you to progress in your own research that it is worth spending the 10-­30minutes to (re)-read the whole thing.

Using this method to read” papers means that in the time it takes you to plod through each and every paper you come across, at 20­-30 minutes a paper, or two an hour, you could get through six or more! (Or, let’s be honest here: you could get through the same 2 papers in less than half the time!)


Reading” a paper in 10 minutes” is cheating a tactical approach to using the structure of a paper to help you skim it productively.

If you really do need to read the paper, you’re going to have to read the whole thing.

March 11, 2023

Microsoft has made the unfortunate decision to limit Sydney to make it a better search engine (boring) rather than answer what I think is the more interesting question, which is how do you ethically and responsibly manage a deranged chatbot with knowledge of the entire internet.

– Ryan Broderick, obvs

February 24, 2023

Weeknote CW06 (S4E4)

Quick and dirty and cryptic:

Monday: it’s funny how often clients fall into the not enough money to do it right; always enough money to do it twice” situation.

Tuesday: Worldwide we’re a centre of gravity for our parent-company’s parent company in terms of what we do. PCs PC is enormous. Each time we meet someone we need to explain what we do.

Wednesday: PCs PC brings the opportunity for para-academic work! Just when I think I’m out they pull me back in.

Thursday: Delivered internal training on research capability.

Friday: how do we do project management internally? And also, spent a long time doing in-person business development. A good day.

February 13, 2023 weeknote

What is a household”?

everyone who is in the room when a cartel draws up a standard definition of what constitutes a household is almost certainly drawn from a pool that is more likely to have a summer villa than a child doing domestic work or construction labor half a world away. These weirdos, so dissimilar from the global majority, get to define the boxes that computers will shove the rest of the world into. If your family doesn’t look like their family, that’s tough: Computer says no.”

Cory Doctorow has no time for your bullshit

February 13, 2023

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