The Mayfly project, 2011

The Project
At the end of every year since 2000, I’ve invited readers to look back on the last twelve months of their lives and reflect on what has been important, defining or constant during that particular year, and then sum their year up in just 24 words. Embracing the constraint of summing up the last year in a handful of words helps to focus what has really mattered.

The Background
In December of 2000, I met an old friend for dinner. We hadn’t seen each other in nine years, and hadn’t been in contact for eight. With only a few hours on a chilly evening in London to catch up before his plane left for Canada, we shared our stories in breathless bursts. So much had happened. We had to narrow it down to the essentials.

The best brief biography I’ve ever heard was for a mayfly:

Born. Eat. Shag. Die.

Because Ephemeroptera lives only for twenty-four hours, the summary of its life is refreshingly straightforward: To the point. The stuff that matters. Just the essentials.

I realised on the way home from the restaurant that there’s nothing quite like embracing the constraint of brevity (whether time or wordcount) when summing up the last year of your life to make you re-examine your priorities, or focus on what has affected you or was important to you over the last twelve months.

When I got home from seeing my friend, inspired by my evening and the biography of a mayfly bumping around in my head, I asked readers of this site to sum up the last year of their lives in just a handful of words. The Mayfly Project was born.

Due to popular demand, I’ve been running the Mayfly Project at the end of every year since then (here’s the 2006 edition, and here’s what happened in 2007 and 2008). It seems that people have got a lot to say or rather, that a lot of people have got not a lot to say: twenty-four words, to be precise, reflecting the mayfly’s short lifespan.

Another year has passed, and it’s back again.

The Instructions
Scroll down to sum up your 2011 in twenty-four words. But before you do, check:

  1. Is it twenty four words?
  2. Does it sum up the last year of your life?

If the answer to either of those is no, you’re going to look silly.

How to make: bunting

Bunting season is nearly upon us – an incipient royal wedding (with accompanying jingoism and jelly at street parties), a clutch of bank holidays and the next thing you know it’ll be summer and time for fairs, picnics and barbecues.

But you don’t need an excuse for bunting, really.

I like bunting. I’ve never really had a reason to string it outside, but my study (painted white) has a picture rail running around the top of the wall, and I had an idea to string some miniature bunting along it (and along the frames of a couple of pictures) as a sort of alternative decoration.

Step 15: Festoon!

So I did a bit of online research (of course) and discovered that you can pay not very much for fairly ugly and cheap-looking big flappy strings of bunting. You can pay quite a lot for the fruits of someone else’s labour on etsy, folksy or ebay and the like. Or you can make it yourself.

Several of the methods I found require cutting things out with pinking shears (I don’t have any, and John Lewis were out of stock when I went in to check) and/or making shapes which you sew and turn inside-out (far too much faff).

So I decided to see if I could figure out a way to make simple no-sew, no cut shapes which would look good front and back, not fray on the edges and would have some structural integrity. I came up with his origami-inspired kite-shape approach.

Step 6: Do the same on the other side

It works!

Step 14: Untangle

You will need:

— Some material, cut into squares (about 30)
— 16mm bias binding tape (about 5m)
— Pins
— A sewing machine (could do it by hand, it’s not that hard or much)
— (optional: webbox)
— An iron + flat surface to press on

Total time to make: about two hours

Step 15: Festoon!

Click through this set on Flickr to see step-by-step instructions with photos.

Let me know how you get on.


I know the first rule of blogging is “never apologise” but I’m sure one of the other rules is something like “keep it up” which I have been woeful at doing recently – the terrible timing, so soon after my celebratory tenth blogiversary postings, was noted and probably deeply significant.

Lots of travel, lots of stuff happening at work, lots of really lousy things happening with regard to our housing situation (synopsis: After seven months dangling at the end of a property chain last year, we finally gave up on the place we were buying and found somewhere else with no chain. All progressed well until the owner of the house we were just about to exchange contracts on suddenly changed her mind about the sale which meant we, having given in our notice on current (rented) flat, were very nearly about to be homeless within weeks. We’ve sorted it out now, thankfully, and the hunt continues, though we are surrounded by boxes which I can’t bring myself to unpack just yet.)

So here’s something approaching content: I’ve been quietly making galleries on Flickr for a while. Here are some of my favourites…

What big eyes you have
(What big eyes you have)
Lone tree in winter
(Lone tree in winter)
Migraine-inducing carpet
(Migraine-inducing carpet)


The power of ten

I missed the actual tenth birthday of this blog/me blogging but I can’t let a milestone like that go unmarked, can I?


Originally started as a place to store and share links, this blog gradually became a place to playfully interact with the world, and over time that turned from introspection to exploration of the world, media, experiences and ideas. I don’t think I’m alone in that kind of journey with blogs.

I am immensely (unreasonably, perhaps even pathetically) proud of having been blogging for so long. I can say confidently that I was in at the beginning, when all this were fields. I was here before many of you young whippersnappers who have gone on to eclipse me, and blogging, and the web entirely in their success and influence. I don’t put my early involvement down to canny prescience about the way the web was turning so much as an inevitability given my proclivity for tinkering with web things, my early academic and personal interest in communicating online and my inability to shut up. Blogging and me; it was only a matter of time and technology before we found each other.

I was there. I remember the start, and the hype, popularisation, commercialisation and ubiquitisation which followed. I couldn’t possibly have known it at the time, but my blogging was to introduce me to dozens of interesting people, influence others to start doing it too, cause interesting opportunities (and worrying situations) to develop. Blogging has become part of what I am, what I do. I blog now for the same reasons I did in early 2000: because I can’t not tinker with and publish to the web.

Ten years ago, I was embarrassed to mention having a blog in polite company, because it was so difficult to understand – not just what but why. These days, even both my parents have blogs. It’s not a weird niche oddball geek thing anymore. It’s so normal it’s almost passé. Good.


The many ways in which the experience of Twitter's development and growing popularity is very much like the experience of early blogging

The reminder a couple of weeks ago that pioneering blog publishing engine Blogger was launched ten years ago got me thinking.

I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years now – since it began with a W – and being involved with something from the beginning, plus passionate (and sometimes despondent) about its potential and usage in the years since means I’ve had a lot of time to watch and think about how it has matured and been used. There are certain things which we can now look back on and consider milestones in the development and maturing of blogging – like how the media responded to it, how people embraced and used it and how it penetrated mainstream web usage over time.

Likewise, Twitter.

Like blogging (which I started doing in January 2000, and used Blogger to publish my blog from April of that year), I’ve been using Twitter since relatively early on – my earliest update via Twitter was in November 2005. I’d link to it, but
a) it’s in my private/personal account (@megp) and
b) all my archived tweets (pre July 31 2009) have disappeared, as experienced by many others in this thread on the Twitter help forum.

It’s actually that help forum – and the appalling petulant and rude manner in which some users are addressing Twitter staff – which got me thinking more specifically about how, in so many ways, the timeline of the Twitter story mirrors that of Blogger and early blogging. Both have seen similar patterns of early usage and behaviour and adoption by certain functional and social groups, and both have learnt – the hard way, sometimes – about technical and social scaling issues as well as being a playground for emergent behaviours and activities, and all the fun and challenge that comes with that.

This isn’t an attempt to demonstrate that startups and new technologies are subject to many of the same pressures and reception issues – that’s been clearly documented and brilliantly expressed in Gartner’s Hype Curve. Rather, I wanted to explore some of the striking similarities in specific situations, movements and experiences in the early days of both micropublishing and blogging, from the perspective of an early settler and long-term resident of both of these strange and wonderful new(ish) countries.

So here’s something I’ve been working on for a little while: it’s a very approximate timeline of the activities, patterns, behaviours and reactions experienced by both Twitter (/micropublishing) and Blogger (/early blogging) during their first few years.