Weeknotes #011: I got Douyin

What I did in the 47th week of 2020


A split week. Data and user feedback continued to gather from our trial and we took the chance to look forward to what is next.

When we have published some results from what we are finding, I will be sure to link it here.

Also some exciting news I should be able to write about next week.

Tech on my team

I usually work on back end development (think the server, think Ruby on Rails). However for the last couple of weeks I have been helping out with some of the frontend. I got some of that work merged this week, and was able to pair with of our frontend specialists to bring what remained up to frontend community standards. I really enjoy pairing, for some reason we do not usually do a lot of it on GOV.UK.

I also started a piece of working on improving our logs.

With time to think, we also went over how we want to write tests in our team. It was great to have time to reflect and be thoughtful about approach and ensure everyone is on the same page.

GOV.UK Community

Again quite a bit of time on community work this week. More sifting for new developers. There is likely to be lots more of that in coming weeks.

I caught up on a GOV.UK wide Request for Comment (RFC) and discussed it with a few colleagues.

Also more training with the final part of the clear writing course. They should share some slides this week, once I have got the notes I will do a write up of what I learned. It was great stuff.


Slow week. Lockdown continues, not much changed.

I was looking for Chinese language pratice, so I signed up to Douyin (抖音), the Chinese version of TikTok. Then wasted most of my free time on the app.

There are similarities between what you see on both Douyin and TikTok. Lots of comedy videos, landscapes, tricks, repeating memes. Then there are things that seem unique to Doyin Chinese product adverts, outreach from local politicians and small plays about caring and neglected grandparents.

Short, looping videos turn out to be great for language practice. Like Chinese TV and film you often get characters as subtitles, also useful. I have picked up a bunch of useful slang, it is nice to break out of the usual language of textbooks

I might need to be cautious before trying this out. I am not sure what English would sound like from someone who had learned theirs from TikTok!


I managed to buy more books than I read pages this week. Which is not a good idea.

I want to finish the Peter Scott essays and then have bought myself some fun science fiction and a comic to get me back in to the swing of regular reading.

Listened to

Outside/In - The Forest for the Carbon - November 19, 2020.

I know, I know I mentioned them last week. This series is still going strong though. This week: why carbon pricing for forests is a complicated idea.

Also this week was the exciting return of:

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History - Supernova in the east - Part V - November 13, 2020.

Ok. So. This is, three and a half hours of a history monologue. It is also the fifth in the series, all past episodes are similar in length. So basically, this is an audio book with a new installment every six months. Normally I am not drawn to the history of World War two. However this series has covered the war in China and the pacific in depth, which I knew little about. The core focus is on the Japanese military and the difficulties trying to understand their actions as a westerner looking back on this history.

If you are interested in world history I would recommend giving this a go. Persevere for a few hours, putting concerns of length and the slightly ranting tone aside. Eventually you will find yourself immersed in rich and vivid histories, flitting from human scale drama to epic theatres. All the way through there is this deeply humane line of questioning: how can we understand the actions of people caught up in these global events? How similar might we be to them?

Current episodes are free, and infrequent. There is a large archive however, “Wrath of the Khans” a history of the mongols made me think of Genghis Khan as a force of early globalisation. They ask for a small fee (like a $1 or $2) for older episodes. If you like the current free ones I would recommend buying a few from the archive next time you were considering an audio book.

Thinking about

| Huw