Weeknotes 08×10: Open Cat Strategy

  • Monday. First meeting with a cat in. Takes the idea of “herding cats” to a new level.

  • Tuesday. Day off, but some pro bono work for the charity project steering group I’m on. A group of four of us pore over survey questions for a few hours, assessing whether we need them, or whether they need changing. Two words: User Needs. By keeping that at the front of our minds, we get to the core – relevance. The words blow everything open – who are the stakeholders and what do they want? How does each question relate to that? It’s murky work, bouncing between impossible problems and linguistic technicalities. Here are biscuits half-covered in chocolate, and no cats.

  • Wednesday sees me going through the ‘final’ tech strategy approach with the tech team. It’s ‘final’ in that it forms the starting point for more targeted action and discussion. No plan is ever final. The finality is a con trick really – the plan will change, but in terms of the planning process, the stamp of “[FINAL]” in the document is a token and a symbol for timescales and confidence. Some work has been “done”.

  • Tuesday’s survey work weirdly overlaps a lot for the tech strategy work, for me. Measuring stuff is really hard, and both strands of work involve deciding what to measure, up against the bleak shards of limited time. Danger in every direction – the fine sliver of a Venn diagram that collates objectives and relevance, with practicality and available tools. It strikes me that nobody really gets how hard that is – that applied metrics is more of a bugger than software, which is already a form of voodoo magick.

  • This week I’ve finally got a near-final version of the tech team strategy for the year ahead (although all the juicy detail is for the next 6 months). I thought I’d write up the final approach as a weeknotes bonus – I really want to open up my thoughts more on this, for some reason. As it is, it’s taking longer than expected, so here’s a start – my approach to a tech team strategy as a Google Doc. Hopefully I’ll carry this on and fill out the later details over the next week or so, but maybe it’s useful to someone out there, or others can chip in their notes too?

Kevin Bacon saying "Free the Bacon"?

Bacon and chips?

  • Wednesday morning, presenting the tech strategy to my team of 5 is… An interesting exercise. Going into it, you assume people are on board, forgetting that people are involved in other work, and that this has been ‘your baby’ for a while. They have other other priorities, like deliverables and getting out of the door on time. Switching the atmosphere is hard – “hey everyone, stop what you’re doing and listen to me” doesn’t always work well. I set out my slides with bullet points and really try to avoid sounding like a damn corporate manager, but slides make it so easy. Still, the basic narrative is there – I spend a few minutes on why it’s important and what’s happened, before getting to the details. It’s always good to slow people down a bit, even if they don’t want to.

  • Halfway through I realise that while I assume that the tech strategy has been formed from “inclusive consultation” and picking people’s brains a lot, it’s now at the point where I, as tech lead, have to kick it on a gear and take on ownership. There’s a switching point, where I realise I’m saying: “This is what’s going to happen. I’ve decided.” – this is, to be honest, quite a scary point as it’s a flip from how I usually think, and it’s a moment that risks a lot of negative comeback. It’s the moment you have to have a bit of confidence – in the way you’ve approached it, and in what you’ve drawn out. And there’s always time to change it later. A plan is never the end point.

  • In fact, all the work up to that point has been to sense check that you’re satisfying everyone to a decent extent. A plan is never going to solve everything – the plan is there to work out what you’re not going to solve, either now or soon, at least. And the job of the lead here is to understand the difference between individuals’ needs, and team needs. The team strategy will address team needs. 1-1s, mentoring, and general life can address everything else.

  • The long period (months) of tapping into people, followed by an hour to turn it into a planned push. Is this like tai chi? In tai chi, in pushing hands, everything is sensory – observe, flow, observe, flow. If it is necessary to push things in a new direction, then it is only to assist it in a direction that it is going already, and only at a moment when there is no resistance. Everything is already in place, there is nothing really to do. Bonus link of Cheng Man Ching footage.

Animated gif of some very good tai chi or kung fu choreography

Last retro

  • One of the worst outcomes for any strategy-type meeting though is silence. Fortunately, and I take this as a good sign, I have to stop the meeting descending into a retro – questions and suggestions for detail start coming up, which I hope/think means that people understand it, and want to get on with it. Relief.

  • I’ve had a couple of bugs I’ve been looking into recently which have gone quite deep into code and history. I’m reminded of just how powerful tools can be – the combination of git, github, Jira, and the myriad APIs which tie them all together, mean I can skip through time like Scott Bakula. Thanks to everything getting tracked, I can give an explanation of why something is so with time and certainty. Amazing.

Animated gif of Quantum Leap with Scott Bakula surrounded by blue light. Text reads "My Body is Ready"

Logging into Jira

  • Thursday brings a celebration of Joel’s 30th, and Obi’s departure next week. They organise a wine and cheese tasting after work. Sadly I have no photos which are suitable for here.

  • Friday is supposed to be a day for retro and a 1-1, but #son2 hits the season of colds, and we’re cautious after breathing problems the last two years. A troublesome night with wheezy coughs (not helped by getting back at midnight), a Doctor’s appointment in the morning, and we end up with the day back in the hospital in Brighton. Shuttling back and forth along the coast is a dreamy way to end the week. We’re all good by 5pm and out and home by 7pm, but I’m asleep soon after. Feels like the end of the series.

In links

Following on from last week’s thoughts on games, movement and focus, this article on Shinran, the founder of Shin Buddhism has some interesting notes on the overlap between the body and compassion:

Buddhism is a bodily practice first, in which one speaks the nembutsu aloud. Then the heart may open and the mind may follow, but only if one is sufficiently humble and clear of the need to possess and the desire to control the world through the intellect.

This post on what a leader does has been reassuring, in light of the strategy work. Sam sets out three important threads and responsibilities: Seek feedback, set context, provide support (“safety zone”).

Things I’ve written:

In culture

  • I’ve come off Steam recently, as am very much in Nintendo world. Currently playing Mario Golf: Advance Tour on the GBA, Zelda: Spirit Tracks on the DS, and Link (the first) and Mario Kart: Double Dash on the Gamecube. They’re all fantastic, in their own way. So much thought.

  • I’m back to reading The Erstwhile again, and really getting back into it. The first few chapters seemed to be a bit clunky, but Catling has found his style again, and the language and ideas are now barreling along in an impressive and fearful way.

  • After reading issue 1, I’ve also picked up the other 4 issues of Barrier, an English/Spanish comic about migration and aliens? Looking forward to it.

Weeknotes 08×09: Ping Pot Problems

  • Full speed ahead this week. The head is in full planning mode. No fancy Kerouacian prose this week, but I’ll keep the photos in…

  • My main achievement* this week was to establish a new game to pass the time. Inspired by various throwing games I saw in France recently, some ping-pong balls, flower pots and a low table were dutifully repurposed into a game I’ve come to call “Ping pot”. Bounce the balls off the table, into one of the pots. Simples.

  • not really my main one, but I like it.

Ping Pot: A table, surrounded by ping pong balls

  • (Ping Pot is definitely not just an executive version of Beer Pong.)

  • This is actually a serious exercise, DESPITE THE BALLS EVERYWHERE. I have a theory that problem-solving is – for me, at least – done best when the body and mind are both working together, without undue focus. Any gentle form of exercise is helpful to problem-solving, from going to the toilet, to going for a walk, to darts or tao chi. Firstly, screens are really, REALLY bad to have in front of you – they’re filled with information and all sorts of emotional routine attachments that distract you. And secondly, distracting the body with something simple somehow “greases” the mind – the semi-automated flow of physical energy also gets thoughts flowing better. As I said, it’s a theory.

  • As a result, these week’s photos are also all things from floor level?

  • An oddly unexpectedly “therapeutic” week. A few things I’ve not been so happy about have been playing on my mind, particularly at 11pm or 5am. Writing a draft email to the ether helped – like weeknotes, the act of getting things down clears things out of the brain.

  • I also read this short read on why we’re creative and problem-solving, and why that makes us grumpy, which definitely helped a lot this week. I’m often grumpy, and have written about trying to find the craft in my work some while ago. The article helped me realise that I do see the world as ‘problematic’ (or ‘puzzlematic’?), and I’m split between loving solving problems, and getting annoyed that others aren’t as ‘solvey’. So the perspective is a good one, and I can calm down.

  • Thursday afternoon, a quiet office and some decent work planning for the epic we’re currently on. We’re changing our underlying geographies, and I wonder if this is the most complex thing we’ve done in five years – it touches on all of our code, with no easy answers in some places. The team are doing a good job, up against annual leave, sickness, and Obi leaving.

  • My main aim now is to keep it on track, which means: Structuring the information learned so the work can continue to be distributed; Keeping an eye out for more detailed gotchas; Turning information into a plan with priorities and estimates (that hard part I’ve talked about before; and Keeping people interested in the work as the endurance test sets in.

  • Pace is everything in these things – pace and rhythm. A piece of work spanning multiple (2 week) sprints can feel like a never-ending slog if done badly. We’re over the big initial hurdle of facing an unknowable, chaotic mammoth, like those times you stomp up a huge hill at the start of a mountain walk. Feels like we need to enjoy the view and the refreshing meander now. I wonder how to build this in.

  • Should “pushing back against delivery pressures” be on the list of duties for a tech team lead? How can one value the longer term sustainability of slowing down? (This question of “undemonstrable value” seems to be a recurring theme at the moment.)

  • Behaviour management. This is something I really struggle with, because it’s rarely a clear line. Is there a difference between ‘rude’ behaviour, and ‘annoying’ behaviour? Not triggered by anything specific, other than looking through a feedback and suggestions form.

In links

  • gov.uk on roadmaps:

    ”But getting them right is hard. Roadmaps are born of all sorts of compromises: between committing to a plan while remaining agile; between giving product teams autonomy while aligning their work to business goals; and between improving existing software versus getting new stuff out the door.”

  • Warren Ellis again, in his Orbital Operations newsletter:

    ”I hope for, and fully expect, futures scenarios to get weirder and wilder, hyperlocal and supermodernglobal, very quickly. 2001 to 2018 has been the training ground for the New Next.”

  • Managed to post some minor internet postcards to Disposable Evidence – sign up, for something a little bit different.

In photos

A beer bottle on the street floor

A child's shoe on the street floor

A pink anarchy sign sprayed on the street floor

Weeknotes 08×08: Journeys, expeditions, exploration and navigation

A spiralled car park ramp

Following the same fragmentary nature as before.

  • I arrive in Manchester just as Pride is dying out, flickers of revelry still sparking behind closed doors in an effort to ride out the back holiday. Six hours of cattle-cage travel thanks to Euston unexisting, after two days of standalone parenting – driving drumming Buddha bowling chatting childing – and then the labyrinth of fresh streets, and the guesswork of solitude. I pick up a beer, check in, and crash out, all punctuated by the electric honk of trams outside. I sleep well, but it feels like a dream long before I sleep.

  • Manchester has back alleys, hidden places. The hidden places are filled with creativity – Street art, graffiti, throw-ups. Privacy is a place to experiment, to find out what works, to find out if you work.

'Motley' street art from Manchester

  • The data expedition is not quite what I expect, but these to is never are, which is a good thing. I go into it thinking through my skills – people management feels irrelevant here, but my “traditional” skill, coding, feels rusty. My laptop isn’t prepared. I feel like legacy…. I should have more confidence in myself – maybe it’s the dreaminess that’s throwing me. I can’t remember the last time I was alone in a strange place.

  • The expedition, run by an amalgamation of Open Data Manchester, Local Trust, and 360giving goes well. I feel a bit uncomfortable foisting our commercial product offering on to people by default in this non-commercial setting, so I disclaimer myself and allow the conversation to sway either towards exploring data from scratch, or to use our tool briefly to avoid the legwork and get on with other questions. We go for the latter, but I have a clean conscious. It’s helped that a bunch of people here already have access to it anyway, but one must always be sensitive to immediate aims.

My character sheet from a data expedition day

  • I spend most of the day actually looking up data and using our own tool, instead of coding – I have come out from behind the curtain. It’s weird and enlightening out here. Finding and understanding open data is a lot harder than it should be, given the effort and time that it’s had. So many interfaces, so little structure or user pathways. This is hard to say, but data.gov.uk feels actively unhelpful as I search. Hey weeknotes crowd, I’m happy to talk to anyone involved in it, if feedback is useful. (Did I read recently that someone new was taking it on?) That’s not to say its the only culprit though. I have many thoughts coming out of eating my own dog food.

  • Failed working experiments #1,652: Blocking out a regular morning every month to do planning (by myself) for upcoming tech work. Why didn’t this work when it does for blocking out time for work building up? Potential reasons:

    • Not enough interest (from me)
    • Aims and structure not clear (from me)
    • Lower priority (for me)
    • (My) Routine not established sufficiently

I think I will try an even smaller step by next week, of blocking out some just to get my head into it, by clearing out existing tech tickets in the system. One of the mental blockers to planning is that I don’t really know what’s in the system already and so adding new stuff makes me feel… dirty.

  • Returning to work, and agree to run a retrospective unexpectedly. I’m blurring the lines a little between Tech Lead (which I am) and Scrum Master (which I’m not) but there are many reasons, and one of them is that I sort of want to shake up the team processes a little, in light of developing the upcoming tech strategy. It’s always difficult to know quite when to step in and when to step back when the lines are blurred. I’m enthusiastic about the team growing, and it feels like there needs to be something different happening.

  • Secret bit: I actually quite enjoy running retro, but I also know how hard they are to get right. I don’t believe you can just assemble some “standard” discussion “tools” (although these can be useful) – the key is to explore the emotions in the room – usually the “negative” ones – but in a way that is productive. That’s a verrry fine line – I think a good facilitator opens up a lot of pain, but stops it – just – from becoming just a rant session. It’s a dangerous and risky process if done well – one that can go bad easily, either because it isn’t bold or vulnerable enough to be open and address real problems, or not channeled enough to come out of it with a sense of progress.

  • Something I always bring to any conversation I have seems to be a sense of mapping, mostly concept mapping, but any system of ideas being discussed. I tend to find myself jotting down what people say, then drawing lines between things. I hope it helps others. I’d love to be an “organisational cartographer”, now that I think about it.

  • Our last task of the day is to roll out some minor updates to our Australian site, which is getting a full on Aussie launch on Monday (when we’re all in bed). The launch comes amid a bit of political turmoil out there, so I hope it goes OK. It’s been a long time coming though, and while we have some internal tidy-up work still to do, it feels like another milestone.

I’m off to shift this cold and pick blackberries. Enjoy the week…

Links

My name is Wil Wheaton. I Live With Chronic Depression and Generalized Anxiety. I Am Not Ashamed.”:

And as we were walking I just started to cry and she asked me, “what’s wrong?”

I said “I just realized that I don’t feel bad and I just realized that I’m not existing, I’m living.”

Warren Ellis’ Orbital operations, 19th August, on “graphical writing” and the story vs the author. I love this bit about consistent structures to let you get on with the real work:

Regular unbroken consistent grid paneling stops you looking at the structure and has you simply focus on the words and pictures.

A collection of thoughts on slowness:

  • How to be slow
  • Louise CatoWeeknotes s05 ep04: Wooden spoon on slowing down: “it does take energy to retain positivity when you’re not feeling it. It takes energy to re-word things, to consider, to be the best version of yourself
  • Is tai chi ‘slow thought practice’? By slowing down our movements, we get out of the habit of tensing in order to respond. Everything is considered and taken on board, but movement is constant. Direction is always flexible, never committed to. Things start and stop in their own time, never rigid nor panicked.

Frances Coppola on life after death and having only one life.

In Photos

Must turn these into a mini zine…

A bee statue outside Manchester Picadilly station

Two guys in Manchester holding hands in the night, reflected between pillars and glass

Fairly abstract shot of clouds reflected in a shiny glass building

A spiralled car park ramp

Abstract photo of lines and shadows

Weeknotes 08×07 :: Fragments

A dragonfly resting on a bus window

Naughty plug, but hey, we’re hiring for a data researcher!

Officially (by weeknotes law) I finished series 8 last week. I’m going to avoid assessing my serious aims from episode 1 like a cheeky bugger. Instead I’m trying out a new approach of jotting down a few random, disjointed fragments, Baudrillard style.

  • I’ve rewritten the whole damn tech strategy now, and re-formulated my initial aims and metrics into a set of parallel “phases”, each with their own timeline. Kim has also finished the marketing strategy for the year. I think maybe the key thing in writing it is not just to be a clear reference document, but to be useful to the person running the process, ie me for the document I’m writing. That’s essential, because it’s basically a user manual for myself. A standardised format just wouldn’t work. And if someone else took over, it would be best to rewrite it all again. Document structures need to match individual thought structures for maximum effect.

  • Heard about the passing of Hendrik Grothuis which was an unexpected and almost surreal thing to hear. I met Hendrik a few times, largely when I was younger and more… uncertain of myself, and he was someone who I always felt happy talking to, like he really knew his stuff but was so open and… warm? about it. It’s weird thinking back on that, and wondering about how influential certain people are on your life.

  • Andrew Sleigh on documentation, and the need to keep it frictionless. I’m still getting a lot of friction as part of my weeknotes flow – I like taking notes in the Diary app on my phone, which supports Markdown. And my self-hosted WordPress site supports Markdown and can then cross-post to Medium. But… Dunno, something. Maybe it’s the need to switch to a laptop for WordPress. Maybe it’s adding images is hard. Maybe it’s just the phone keyboard, give me a mechanical bash board any day. Or maybe it’s the need to summarise things into a week. Is an ongoing blog approach any better? Or just overkill for readers?

  • London on Thursday was really good, and I had trouble sleeping after it. I managed to understand the wider context about the Product Owner role I occupy currently, and why I’m frustrated about it. I’m not sure if it helps find a solution, but I like it when I get a better idea of the problem I’m facing

  • I also managed to pop into the Photographer’s Gallery near Oxford Circus and catch the amazing work of Tish Murtha documenting children and social deprivation in the 70s and 80s. Do go and see it if you can. I’m convinced photography has a massive, underestimated role to play in understanding our world. Data is great, but photography hits that emotional side of politics that we all deal in. If data visuals pull you in, documentary photography ducks you in, pummels you, and does a bloody dance around your body.

  • It was also great to meet up with a guy called Dan Barrett who is one of the world’s Heads of Search and Data, and has started weeknoting recently*. No, seriously though. I didn’t really know where the conversation would go, but we ended up comparing job notes and thoughts on democracy. It feels like we both had similar challenges, despite being in organisations of massively different size. It was also a great reminder that being a tech team lead isn’t about code, not in the slightest. But what is it then?

* weeknotes in-joke?

  • Relatedly, I started reading The Manager’s Path properly at last. The opening section of the book reminds us that tech leading is not about being a good coder, but a good leader, work/project manager, communicator, and systems thinker – how everything fits together, risks, and strengths. It’s more important to understand the people with in depth knowledge than to know the details of that knowledge itself. Change management. Curiosity. Confidence.

  • Relatedly, last week I also finished The Tao of Democracy by Tom Atlee. I’ve always tried to take something of a democratic, inclusive, consultative approach to my team. The book concluded with a quote from Lao Tzu which has also kept me inspired for many years: “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, We did it ourselves!”. I’ve been reassured by re-finding this – and have forgotten it at a conscious level for too long. As a result, I’ve been finding it difficult to demonstrate or explain the value of doing nothing, as a lead, and feeling like the team are getting credit for my doing nothing (which is all good, but doing nothing is a deliberate action in itself). If people feel the team are doing things themselves, then I think I’m following the path ok.

  • Friday afternoon – we’re re-establishing personal research time, so I started tidying up the spare office/table football room. OCSI now has a Memory Box.

In links

In photos

Dragonfly trapped on replacement bus

A dragonfly resting on a bus window

Till glitches

Till screen glitch at train station

Till screen glitch in bookshop

A marrow escape

Giant courgette, almost a marrow (and a curly carrot)

And an obligatory slice of London

Abstract photo of London pavement

Weeknotes 08×06: Make it all up then go away

Totorostreet art and graffiti

It’s a bit of a struggle to start writing these weeknotes this week, for two reasons. One I’ve been off for two weeks and am feeling relaxed. Two, a lot of my thoughts are fairly personal, and range long term over the next few years. It’s hard to turn that into something small and daily. But hey, maybe weeknotes is also a good excuse to get out of that a bit, get back to the practical stuff, and to think about just being open by default again.

So here’s a quick run-down of some thoughts on things that are happening. As this is traditionally the sixth and final “episode” in my series, I was going to look back at the aims I set out at the start. But I think I’ll save that for another time.

Three things that happened

(More than three things happened.)

1. Recapping on an ad-hoc strategy process

One of the key strands this series has been helping to draw out a coherent company strategy for the year ahead, including setting out my own directions for the tech team within that. My processes for this have been instinctual, rather than based on a known structure, partly because I didn’t have time to research ideas, and partly because I know the people involved, and it’s easier to design the process to fit their mindsets, working patterns, knowledge domains, styles, etc.

This week I wrote up the results from the process, in order to form my own strategy and see how well it aligns. I wish I could share all this more openly, but it would be remiss to do so. However, in a nice season of synchronicity, I’m also reading a book all about deliberation and decision-making (see “Culture” section, below), which helped put that recap of my own work into some perspective.

The key theme of all of my prices has been to try to gather inputs from a particular group of stakeholders first. This has happened a few times in different forms:

  • A group meeting, in person, to collate tech team pain points, and another meeting to summarise and confirm the ideas
  • A Google form survey to gather thoughts from the wider product team, on what they would like from the team
  • A few face-to-face sessions with the Management Team to draw out overall company aims over the next year

It’s not been the easiest thing to do in an experimental way – it’s not always clear what I’ve been asking for, or why, or what’s going to come out of it. But it does make a lot more sense than before, and I’m at a crux point with it.

The next step is to hammer out a clear and succinct write-up, and to base a final tech strategy on it. This should be fine – the key big challenge after that is to communicate it out to the team. I’ve agreed a date to go through it with the tech team, and would like to take the management team through it. This implies, though, that I should also go back to the other people I surveyed, to fill in the gaps and complete the circle.

2. Work happened while I was away

It’s always good to go away. I see it as a test of how well the team cope without me. 🙂 This time, there’s a particularly gnarly piece of work going on to migrate the geographies we use, and we’re slap-bang on the discovery and design stage.

Migration is one of the harder aspects of technical projects, I think, and I’m surprised there’s not more literature on blogs devoted to it, compared to sprint processes, testing, etc. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place, but I’ve done a fair bit of it over the last year, and seem to have an innate fear of doing it badly now.

Really pleased to see that the team had done a great job of planning it the work and looking into what’s required. The efforts we’ve put in over the last year seem to be paying off, and while I think I could do more to create a more ‘unified’ team (whatever that means), what I see, and the feedback I get (including from an annual review this week) is that things are running fairly smoothly.

It’s odd to reflect on that, and the effect I think I’ve had over the last 3 years. When you work with people on a personal and career development level, it’s not always easy to make the link between coaching/mentoring and the delivery of the work. How do people value that? How can that “experience” and “directioning” be taken account of within an organisation? Or is it something that people just “understand”? Sometimes I feel like it’s an intimate connection between myself and my charges, and I have no idea if anyone outside of those relationships sees or values that.

3. Somehow I am a research project advisor

On Friday I met up with Angie from Community Works, who’s running a project for local charities. There’s a survey and lots of data involved, lots of political implications, and some tough choices about how to design the work as a whole. The steering group that I’m on has a lot of great skills and experience shared across it, and I’m really enjoying seeing others jump into action. Just watching others work is so, so important, and sometimes I hit a mindset where I’m really happy to shut up, watch and learn, almost like I’m work-shadowing. It’s great to have that opportunity, and maybe that’s a big part of my weeknotes practice – to try to give something back in return for all the times I’ve learnt from others.

Anyway, we had a good chat, and afterwards I realised this is both what I do, and what I don’t do. I do project design all the time. I’m not considered a “researcher” though. The link between designing a project and designing a piece of code is real though. And between designing an approach to a task, or a strategy. This is all systems designs thinking. And a lot of it boils down to asking:

  • What needs to be done?
  • What order does it need to be done in?
  • Where should it be done? As in, which person, or what phase or component, or which object in your code?

Between these questions you basically get the outline of your system, and – more importantly – a way of dividing up chaos that lets you actually think about it in a simpler way. Scope, dependency, relationships. Everything else is detail.

It’s very rewarding being able to bring this kind of thinking to a fresh context and person. Like I’m testing my own design skills more.

Right, these notes are already well late. Catch you later.

Culture

  • Finished reading The Tao of Democracy by Tom Atlee. Got me thinking about what I do. What I like doing. A lot.
  • Finished watching West Side Story from 1961. Funny, I listened to the soundtrack a lot as a kid, and never realised how much of a social commentary it was 🤔 Some great sound and visual design though, worth a watch.

  • Writing: I finally started a new blog to keep track of my solar power adventures – https://6suns.exmosis.net/ – I’ve been running my phone and watch off solar power for 15 weeks now, and figured it was time to start being a bit open about it.