I saw a comment on twitter that blogging more by lowering standards is good, so I’m going to try writing badly and see if I like it.

The book

After putting it down for about six months I’ve made some good progress on the book recently.

The book is broadly about what I’ve started calling “suicide media interventions”, which cover everything from outside guidelines, professional standards or laws that guide/restrict stories about suicide. Early lockdown I broke down what I had, had a think about things that were important, and wrote a new outline that suggested the missing bits, like there needed to be a chapter properly defining the concept, that several chapters addressed the political uses of these guidelines in part and could be bought together, and that actually there was enough to say on social media to do a chapter in itself.

I’ve gradually been working through those, but hit a big wall in the last section, where I was a bit flippantly reforming the coroners’ system mostly with an eye on the impact on the press. Reading it through, I had some obvious questions that needed some more research, which I didn’t really have the brain space for so I just stopped. Picking it back up, this section has now got… bigger, and is about three or four chapters of material.

I quite like where it’s going (my rule for adding new material was it must plausibly be the best section of the book for someone), but was getting worried it was starting to split the book into two parts. I think I’ve solved this by reframing the whole thing as different arguments about “learning from suicide”.

I think this works as an overarching structure because most of the conflicts I’m mapping are generally between groups that have different theories of how to learn from (and prevent future) suicide, and these theories either clash philosophically or practically. So I’m hoping when I double back to the introduction (which is so weedy and vague atm) there’s now a strong throughline right through the book.

Still a bit uncertain about the eventual fate of the book, bit frustrating to have been writing it for so long, but generally it’s been a lot more stable (and much better written) over the last few years, fewer big reversals in what I think, and generally new evidence and publications are strengthening rather than questioning my case. Will be good to finish and have a proper evaluation, but this is not the best way to write a book.

mySociety stuff

Launch of councilclimatescorecards.uk where I’ve been doing work supporting the way the volunteers collected the data (the volunteer effort was really impressive), and then in the supporting data work for the filters and the site.

A blog post starting to drop out some of the polling we’ve been doing the democracy and transparency work. Think we’ve got some really interesting stuff to talk about, just trying to think about the best way of doing it.

Mixing github actions and Netlify LFS

My portfolio of stuff on this stuff I’d written for work had gotten really out of date and I didn’t really want to keep moving stuff manually across. Although the site is being built by netlify, I realised I could use a github action to fetch any new stuff from the mySociety RSS feed for my author page, and pull the image and sharing description. The Python code to do the download is simple enough. The complicated bit of this turned out to be doing the normal checkout process while using Netlify LFS to store the images in the repo.

The Netlify CLI has a bug, and doesn’t authenticate using a token like it says it should. Which means you have to track down your local config file (the docs are wrong, and the windows one is in the same location as the linux one), stick that in an Actions secret, and then dump it into a file before it will authenticate you properly.

With some trial and error, this is what you need to do to clone the repo:

      - name: check out repo (with netlify lfs)
        run : |
          mkdir ~/.config/netlify
          echo "$NETLIFY_JSON" > ~/.config/netlify/config.json
          npm install netlify-cli --save-dev
          netlify lm:install
          source /home/runner/.config/netlify/helper/path.bash.inc
          git config --global credential.helper netlify
          cd "$GITHUB_WORKSPACE"
          git init
          git remote add origin "https://$GITHUB_ACTOR:$GITHUB_TOKEN@github.com/$GITHUB_REPOSITORY"
          git fetch origin
          git switch -c master "origin/$GITHUB_REF_NAME"
          SHELL: bash
          GITHUB_TOKEN: $\{\{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN \}\}
          NETLIFY_JSON: $\{\{ secrets.NETLIFY_JSON \}\}

(and if pushing back up, remember to run that source line again).