Matt Gemmell

Focusing on reading

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about designing blogs for readers. I still think it’s good advice.

Since then, though, I had started to allow some cruft to creep into my blog design again: a few more items in article headings, for example. I’ve now made a few tweaks to redress the balance, and had another think about my goals for this site.

The Unacknowledged Compromise

Comparisons are one of the mainstays of tech journalism. Each new offering is inevitably framed in terms of how it measures up to not only the previous model, but also the competition – where ‘competition’ means just about anything the reviewer wants it to.


“You can make a wish, but it’ll only come true if you don’t tell anyone.”

That’s what my mum always told me when she found a stray eyelash on my cheek. It was a compelling idea, and the element of secrecy made it all the more alluring.

Her particular version of this common ritual was that you put the eyelash in your palm or on the tip of your finger, close your eyes, and make the wish whilst blowing the eyelash away.


Can I be honest with you?

Yes. I think I can do that, at least. I’ve had a draft of this article sitting unpublished for at least a couple of years now.

I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, even though I shouldn’t be. The age of stigmatisation for men with personal issues is pretty much in the past. And it’s such a ridiculous thing too. Here it is:

I hereby admit that, irritatingly, I have a bit of an anxiety disorder.


I had a fishing net. It was one of those cheap ones, on a long bamboo stick. It only cost 50p, but it was exactly the kind of net you’d want if you were a boy who had recently turned nine years old, and that’s exactly what I was. My net was green.

I remember that my brother had a red one, but I thought there was more chance of the green blending in with the algae and seaweed in the many rock pools along the coast. More chance of sneaking up on the interesting creatures that might be in there, and maybe catching a few. My brother was only five-and-a-half, so it’s understandable that this sophisticated thought was mine alone.


Yesterday, The Guardian in partnership with The New York Times and ProPublica published a story about the capabilities and ongoing endeavours of the British and American signals intelligence organisations: GCHQ and the NSA respectively. The information is based on documents obtained by The Guardian which were revealed by Edward Snowden.

None of the news is surprising. As any reasonable person would expect, the intelligence agencies have mounted decades-long (and seemingly successful) attempts to compromise standard encryption protocols (including SSL as used ubiquitously on the internet for commerce, banking and authentication), introduce weaknesses and backdoors into industry encryption algorithms, and to access unencrypted information directly on the servers of domestic and foreign commercial, governmental and military entities.

Fiction Style Guide

This is mostly for my own reference, but you’re entirely welcome to use it. It’s a style guide for formatting written fiction. I’ll keep it updated according to my needs. This is purely for my own personal taste, and is addressed squarely at myself. Feel free to ignore any or all of it. In some ways, it’s an updated version of a piece I wrote a few years ago on writing fiction online.

I also recently put together a few writing tips for fiction writers, and details on how I write articles.

Content as Medium

Before turning the page of a magazine, my mother licks her finger. I assume she does it to make it easier to separate the next page from the rest. She even does it with newspapers. I always found the habit disgusting, and when I was about twelve years old, I told her so. She still does it, but now with the gleeful knowledge that she’s annoying me.