Matt Gemmell

My book Raw Materials is out now!

A collection of personal essays, with exclusive content and author's notes.

★★★★★ — Amazon


Personal & Whisky 5 min read

As I write this, I’m sitting in my armchair. I often write to you from this spot.

About five feet to my right, there’s a wooden globe, mounted on a wheeled pedestal. The surface is emblazoned with a reproduction fifteenth-century world map, and on top, there’s a small handle. If you take hold of it and pull, the upper hemisphere tilts upwards and backwards, revealing a collection of bottles, orbited by lead-crystal glasses.

There’s no finer substance than single malt whisky.

If you’d told that to my teenage self - and some people probably did - he’d have at first scoffed (before he was sixteen or so), then shuddered (a year or two later). Whisky was the stuff you drank if there was absolutely no other option available in your parents’ drinks cabinet, on the rare occasion you had the house to yourself. I’m ashamed to say that I put myself completely off the stuff for almost ten years because of foolish adolescent indulgence.

You live and learn.

Small changes

Accessibility 2 min read

Both OS X and iOS include an accessibility technology called VoiceOver, which is a screen-reader for people with impaired vision. I have a currently-dormant condition such that I may one day become blind, so these technologies are very important to me, even though I don’t actively use them most of the time.

I like to keep tabs on accessibility features, because I might need them in earnest at some point. I wrote about that in my article about accessibility for iPhone and iPad apps, a few years ago.

I’m also a writer, and I hope I’ll always be able to do that job, no matter what becomes of my visual acuity. Yosemite (OS X 10.10) made a tweak to its accessibility implementation that reassured me.


Writing 2 min read

In December 2008, I wrote an article entitled What have you tried?, which I’ll henceforth refer to as WHYT.

To date, it’s the most-read piece on this site (my article on iOS 7 trails behind at just over a quarter of a million page views). I’ve had more than a thousand visitors to WHYT per week, for the last six years.

In hindsight, I wish I’d never published it.

Female voices

Women 2 min read

Online or offline, the world is an echo chamber of male opinion.

Our cultures are largely built around male interaction, desires, and expectations. Our default - and prioritised - gender is masculine. Our terms of praise are those associated with men, and our ridicules are those associated with women.

I very much fell into the trap of only being exposed to the voices of men. My blog subscriptions were all to male writers. Those I followed on Twitter were almost all male. I spoke at many conferences, and in every case, the speaker line-up was either almost completely or exclusively male. Those men then amplified other male voices, perpetuating the effect.

It’s vital, for all our sakes, that we make an effort to change that.


Tech 4 min read

My wife has a twice-yearly ritual of looking for a new everyday bag.

The criteria are simple enough: it has to accommodate a 15” laptop, it has to be comfortable to carry and tough enough to survive her daily 25-minute walk to work and back again, and it has to be stylish.

It’s the last criterion that turns this search into an ordeal. I’m speaking from personal experience here, because I’ve been along for the ride on most of those quests. There’s no shortage of bags in general, of course. There are plenty of tough, spacious, comfortable, laptop-accommodating ones too.

But for the most part, they’re hideous.


Personal 6 min read

Over the past eighteen months, I’ve become much better acquainted with myself.

That’a strange statement to make, I know, but it’s true. You can coast through life without knowing very much about yourself at all - until you fetch up against something. Until you stumble, or trip, or are knocked right off your feet.

Life knocks us all off our feet, sooner or later. Sometimes, though, we do it to ourselves. We choose it, by attempting to discipline ourselves, against a natural tendency to over-indulge and relentlessly seek novelty. That’s what happened with me, and it’s been eye-opening.

On blogs

Blog 3 min read

If you had to categorise this site, in terms of what it is, you’d almost certainly call it a blog. That’s what I usually call it, too, for ease more than anything else.

The thing is, that’s sort of an ugly word.

Windows Phone

Tech 31 min read

As an iPhone user, you probably have little interest in the other mobile platforms - but they do exist.

I take my iPhone everywhere I go, and for the most part, it’s a satisfying device to use. There are some rough edges, though. There aren’t many ways to customise iOS to your individual tastes, for example, and the hardware is extremely expensive. I’ve been experiencing a growing restlessness with it lately. I find that in some ways it lacks character - and indeed a boldness of aesthetic. It’s a little (dare I say it) boring.

Some of that feeling is just because of familiarity; I’ve never used a non-Apple smartphone for more than a few minutes. There are other options out there, and I decided to explore some of them. In this article, I’m going to talk about Microsoft’s Windows Phone.