Bright & Matt
Matthew Solle: design and writing


All arguments and discussions are old and it’s just fine if they remain that way. Old things can just keep on going. It’s never too late or too early to table them again. If it works for you, keep saying it. If it helps, keep telling it (it might even help someone else). Anyway, I am allowed to write what I want, when I want.

Some of us get to things in our own time. We watched from the sidelines, picking over the bones of some older story, wondering whether another kettle might be called out black. But we get to it if it’s worth getting to. We understand the relevance, we just don’t always rush in looking like/for fools.

Running and coding for me exist non-competitively. You are just happy to be doing, never expecting to be the best. Content with knowing that it will always get easier and you will always get that little bit better. Both activities just lend themselves to non-competitiveness. You can enjoy either without any urge to be a big winner. You can deliver life/work-changing results without gaining any medals. You can track everything, segment every step but you don’t have to compete with yourself.

The biggest difference (like with most things) is getting beyond the hypothetical. As soon as you do, you know there are no excuses, no reasons not to. A little goes a long way. And once you start, there is little reason to stop. The fastest thing you learn is the importance of imperfection and incompleteness. You quickly lean into the benefits of rapid communication and versatility. This almost works for both but is (obviously) most relevant to coding/prototyping.

The first lesson (and maybe most important lesson) is don’t confuse the difference between prototyping in code and coding. They are super importantly different. Super obvious but not always remembered/communicated/clarified even in the most super lean modern agile working environments. I promise you.

Once you are beyond the hypothetical, there’s no can’t in prototyping in code. If you can write your name and you don’t live alone on an island then you can. (Put it another way, if I can you can.) There really aren’t any other lessons as once you’ve started, you’ve started (unlike running where you have to get beyond three weeks to make it a habit).

My critical yardstick when running is to keep running. To avoid pushing too hard. Always listening to myself. Self-preservation. Care over overcommitment. Terminally careful. I’m not into competing, I’m just into doing. It also serves as a survival technique keeping any (excessive) behaviours in check.

With both running and writing bits of code to communicate something a little always goes a long way. Running and coding, two very first world problems. Not really solving big big problems but improving one’s lot. Immediate difference, tangible, helpful. Low point of entry. For every/anyone. Self-improvement on a plate. Go.

“I think about coding when I’m running and I think about running when I’m coding (well, I did once and maybe I will again)”

//somewhere in england


After much talking, much thinking, and not a small amount of procrastination, I am calling an end to my design event organising. It’s been nigh on five years of stuff, some years almost relentlessly, others a bit more staccato. There’s even, like last year, been almost a theme. A whole strategy had formed around future possibilities but it never got out of the blocks. Sometimes it is just best to stop, especially when you aren’t even convinced you would attend your own event.

My favourite evenings

London IA:

February 2012 with Jeff Gothelf

December 2011 with Joe Muggs and Jim Kosem

October 2011 with Ben Bashford and Jonty Sharples

April 2011 with Michael Blastland and Chris Heathcote

January 2011 with Jason Mesut and Mark Plant

November 2009 Max Gadney, Richard Sedley, Jason Mesut, Oliver Reichenstein (special mention to Martin Belam’s efforts to video Max and managing to host Oliver’s talk on Skype over a 3G dongle in a basement)

This is LDNIA:

April 2013 with Rev Dan Catt and Matt Ward

Special mentions have to go to Joe Muggs and Matthew De Abaitua for talks that went beyond a slidedeck. A privilege.

And the posters I like

London IA:

November 2010

February 2011

October 2011

November 2011

April 2012

May 2012

This is LDNIA

August 2013

November 2013

Also a thank you to all the people who have been a big support, providing either money or space: Raj Panjwani, Sense Loft, Nick Cochrane, Zebra People, Jonty Sharples, Albion London

and so mind the doors, mind the doors, mind the doors (maybe I’ll start organising gigs again).

//somewhere in england

Start up education (or education as start up)

Below is something I wrote for the Do Lectures blog last year. Since then they’ve overhauled it and the post seems not to have made the cut. So I’m going to republish here with a few extra notes and updates from the last year.

Since I started writing below, the one thing that has appealed to me is the balancing of technology (invariably screens, variable sizes) with non-technology (invariably reading of books, paper bound or writing with pencil or pen). This balancing (particularly technology) factors both engagement and interaction and subjugation. It’s about the child and their concept of needs not our concept of our children’s needs. Education and learning shouldn’t be an assault on our children. Their upbringing and lives is not a bar to be continually raised.

Getting a balance right is invariably a balance when there is more than one guardian involved. Always the danger of one pulling too hard in the direction of most resistance. Resistance achieves little in learning unless the child has chosen to pull purposefully, with conviction and an aim. One person’s too much is another’s too little and scales rarely balance. We seek to achieve something different, something new and behold right before us raw achievement.


These are changing times. Everywhere you go there are active pockets of home (un)schooling. People are taking real responsibility for their children’s growth and lives and education. Placing it firmly on their own doorsteps. Looking it straight in the eye. Getting to know what is going on and getting to know their children. Experiencing the immediate results – and the problems. It is far from easy, it is really hard. And you will often want to give in, just give up. Some days you will think that you have made a really bad decision and believe they really would just be better off (back – if you took them out in the first place) in the education system.

There are many definitions of what it means to take the education of your child seriously and many, many expected outcomes. With that in mind we have decided to play with the definition of ‘start up’ and ’education’ and what they are and what they can be when brought together.

Whether the education of a child can truly be referred to as a ’start up’ is probably beside the point. A child’s education should never just be a business, but that doesn’t mean that approaches and ideas can not be borrowed in a pursuit of growth, development and success. As Paul Graham has written, the only essential aspect of a startup is growth.

How it starts: taking a child out of mainstream education, getting them started, unschooling them, letting them feel ready, prepared, excited – a sort of Sprint 0 while they get out of old bad habits and get excited for learning growth, their potential, their own interests – what really interests them as drivers of their schooling.

This idea of start up education is fast moving and fast growing. Constantly offering opportunities to investigate different approaches and understanding of what children’s learning actually is and could be. Learning is remembering what you are interested in combined with turning everything into a learning system and opportunity.

What holds this approach together are ideas, lots of ideas, and the sharing of ideas. Everything is about ideas. The ideas become the rules and the ideas become the framework.

Everything has to start somewhere. A good place to start is with talking. Talking is a foundation to just about everything else. Young children’s talking and conversation skills are rarely seen as something that requires nurturing or developing beyond answering questions or replying to direction or requests. Being able to speak out loud with confidence and assurance and to make yourself understood is something that doesn’t always come naturally to a lot of people. So, why do we leave it so late (or if ever) to work on this vital attribute? If the issue is addressed when children are young, I’m sure it would be far more straightforward to assist them with ordering their thoughts clearly and for them to become far more confident and assured orators.

This start up approach doesn’t necessarily have to be repetition and practice practice practice learning but inquisitiveness first then practice. Better for the child to be practicing the thing that they have discovered by way of an inquisitive mind and that they are interested in than working at something they are not. Outside a traditional system it is much easier to think for yourself. You can use systems but you aren’t in the system.

Often the idea of (un)schooling seems to crumble in front of you – to barely exist at all. When you are pushing against accepted norms (children go to school) a gnawing doubt will always be ready to start whispering in your ear. Your confidence questioned. A ship adrift.

Anyway, more to come on this. Biggest challenge of my life.

//somewhere in england

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