Matt Marshall

February 2019

18 Feb 2019, 07:51

Hi Twitter, please be informed that I am no longer logging in so I will not see replies or messages, and haven't for some time. All my tweets are automatically posted via my blog. I'm basically a bot now.

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16 Feb 2019, 09:35

2018 was a Long Year

2018 was a long year.

I've put off writing a little reflection on 2018 for a while now. Part of that has been due to how tired I am. Part of that will be simply due to my priorities not laying with updating a blog. Part of that will be me not wanting to sit down and take account of everything that happened.

I hit burnout this year. It had been building for a while. You know the kind of burnout? The kind where you can spend every week day exercising and doing fieldwork and analysing data intensley and then can't summon the emotional fortitude to pick up the phone to make a GP appointment, or speak to a supervisor. Unfortunately I think it was a pretty typical progression; supervision for my Phd has been problematic for a while. I've had five named supervisors for a while, and no real supervision. I'd not see a supervisor for months at a time, and when I did see them I felt obliged to tell them everything was ok. To essentially lie to them about how I was feeling about my PhD. That's its own problem really -- eventually I want to write a piece about life at Open Lab and the issues around supervision there, and how I never felt that it was possible to approach or speak to anyone. To sum up my experience; for the latter half of my PhD (around halfway through Stage 2) nobody ever asked to actually see my thesis. Not once. I had to attach it in its current state to my annual progression panel. That caused me a lot of anxiety. The progression panel were fine with the state of the thesis -- I had publications. My supervisors were usually attentive to my work when it was CHI time.

The environment in Open Lab turned actively toxic. Patrick Olivier's abusive management style was beginning to be reproduced by some of the academics in the lab. The other professor in the lab, Pete, sat back and claimed ignorance when confronted with the reality. I know this was not a genuine claim. The emotional support I was giving others was necessary but also taxing. Partially due to the specific way I was suffering under Open Lab made me feel I couldn't speak up and thus others kind of presumed I was fine. Nothing was put back in my tank. As much as I love my friends and colleagues at Open Lab, I am upset they never really made efforts to ask how I actually was (with a few notable exceptions).

At the same time, my relationship with B was growing steadily worse. Not due to her, but because of my ignorance and self-absorption in my own mental health issues. I'm so sorry for everything. I can explain it. I did genuinely have mental health problems, and probably have for a while. Probably will continue to have for a while. I can't excuse it. My relationship to Helmsley Road (my home of seven years) was also deterioating. The walls that had once acted as shelter and opportunity, and an incubator for my growth started to steadily warp into something else. It had been building for a while. I couldn't leave because of the financial uncertainty that came from my funding running out and my perceived dependance on my pull-up bar and the "flexibility" of the landlord. I would sit there, being the only one who ever did any cleaning for years, feeling trapped.

It came to a head in August. I couldn't take any more. I sent a 'state of the union' style email to all five of my named supervisors. I received a mixed set of responses from ones that actively blamed me to ones that took responsibility for their failure. I also spotted my dream job, and in September I was offered a role at the Open Data Services Co-Operative. I also moved flat and broke up with B. All of these rapid changes across the last quarter of 2018 also took their toll. It was really tough, and those decisions each have had their lingering negative effects. But they've given me the chance to start the next stage of growth. There's been a few false positives with the mental health. I was feeling better and then took on too much again, and once again it came to a head recently where I was socially exhausted and nothing was putting back into the tank.

Right now, I'm fairly positive I'm on a better trajectory. I've got steady employment, meaning my anxiety over money is a lot less. I'm in a lovely new flat with an amazing new flatmate and the place is very much what I need in a home. It has a central hub around the kitchen table where I spend time alone and time with my flatmate. I'm still writing my thesis. I still miss B, but I need to be alone to recuperate and reflect to rebuild my foundations. I watched the sunrise over the beach today; an annual ritual of mine. The solitude and headspace felt right. I'm ready to put in the work to make myself happy again.

I think 2019 is going to be a long year too.

life reflection work academia phd 2018 mental health

15 Feb 2019, 15:37

Who the hell uses Zoom? It's genuinely the most terrible niche video calling system I've had to install for a single call to date.

11 Feb 2019, 07:03

Hello Mastodon! I'm no longer monitoring this account so classing it as a bot. If you need me you can contact me via

08 Feb 2019, 15:13

About Me

Hello, I'm Marshall! If you want to learn about me in 10 seconds, read the now section. If you'd like to get in touch, you can see how in the contact section. The rest is all details.

Now (/now)

This is in response to the now page movement. It's not on its own url because I don't think it's big enough for it! Right now I am:

  • Finishing off my Phd Thesis looking at Digital Technologies, Charities, and Accountability.
  • Slowly doing up my boat, The Morning Star ready for sailing.
  • I am a trustee of a small Youth Work charity, The Patchwork Project in the west end of Newcastle, having worked alongside them during my PhD.
  • I have just accepted a position of Open Data Publisher Support at the Open Data Services.
  • Deciding whether I want to move back to the coast of Northumberland for the next few years or sail off to the Mediterranean. Both are ideal.


A person's philosophy drives how they approach things and interact with others. As such you can sum up my philosophy as being heavily influenced by the following (listed alphabetically rather than in order of prevalence as that is impossible tell):

  • Communism, especially Marxism-Leninism. Basically, I think the planet and human rights are pretty neat and that Communist-Utopia is possible through organisation and hard work.
  • Feminism, especially Marxist-Feminists such as Silvia Federici but although I have a Marxy critique of Identity Politics, I support some of the goals of Intersectionality and am staunchly Pro-Trans rights and Pro-Sex Worker rights.
  • Minimalism, especially when presented as thinking about the most "simple" or "straightforward" way of accomplishing tasks and reducing clutter. The design of this site was influenced by my minimalist tendencies. I use it as a tool to evaluate how my own desires have been hijacked by consumer capitalism, and quieten my brain which can get distracted very easily.
  • Satanism, although not LaVeyan Satanism as they're a bunch of fascist nutters (seriously though). Not The Satanic Temple either, although I do enjoy what they're doing. I still resonate with Satanic imagery and the original purpose of setting up an organised Satanic group -- namely challenging power structures. For me, Capitalism and Patriarchy are the dominant and oppressive power structures and they've always intersected in top-down, undemocratic, organised religion. I think Satanism gives us an evocative set of symbols to challenge this.
  • Stoicism, especially as espoused in this book. Stoicism and Minimalism go hand-in-hand in driving what most would call my self-care, and small-scale mundane interactions. A practitioner of Stoicism seeks tranquility, which is my goal, and offers a practical set of tools to achieve it.


I try to maintain a simple and sustainable diet. Although I'm sometimes a bit naughty. Broadly, I would describe myself as practicing pescetarian diet as I exclude meat 99% of the time. This is for ethical/sustainability reasons, as well as for bodily health. I've also been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, meaning I react pretty nastily to things containing gluten. I therefore don't feature bread prominently. As Gluten-Free Bread products are super expensive, I tend to just eat more vegetables. My main sources of carbohydrates are beans, and rice. I'm still naughty and have bread occasionally, but I treat it the same way as drinking alcohol or smoking. I've been limiting sugar for some time now, but occasionally treat myself to a chocolate bar.

My 'favourite' dishes often shift around but I generally most look forward to eating:

  • Bean chili packed with veg (usually my workday lunch)
  • Sushi
  • Spicy East-Asian food, usually with prawns or mushrooms as the focal point
  • Fish and Chips
  • Salad with fish and plenty black pepper
  • Curries, usually with chickpeas

My favourite spices are black pepper, cayenne pepper, and paprika (smoked if I can get it).

Things I carry every day (at the moment):

  • Backpack. Old Miltec thing I've carried for years that I don't know the model.
  • Camping cutlery set. There's generally a lack of cutlery in my office.
  • Lunchbox. Plastic. Got it at a supermarket.
  • Front door key. I only carry keys that I need at the time. My back door and boat keys live at home in a box until I need them.
  • Pack-down waterproof jacket and trousers. Not heavy-duty but I hate umbrellas.
  • Metal wallet, since it's not bulky. I mostly pay for things with card. The wallet has a money clip for cash when I remember that cash is wonderful and anonymous and more ethical. For coinage, it stays in my pocket (so that it irritates me) until I see someone who needs it and then it goes to them. Usually a rough sleeper or a colleague.
  • Bluetooth earphones. I stayed off bluetooth for ages because I didn't want to keep charging them, but I broke down when my wired ones kept breaking weeks after buying them. These have done me proud for a good 18 months or so now.
  • Pocket Notebook. Sometimes handmade when I'm feeling creative urges, but I'm unopposed to just buying one if it's not too expensive.
  • Minimal pencil case. It's one of those little slim hard plastic things that holds a teeny ruler and a pen and a pencil. I love it.


  • I really enjoy strength training, particularly bodyweight strength. My preferred system is a variation of Convict Conditioning, and I like to train first thing in the morning because I'm usually exhausted the evenings from work and I want to ensure that I still train.
  • I dislike harsh electric light, as it makes my skin itch. I like 'warm' LED lights, and if possible I prefer not to use ceiling bulbs (floor and desk lamps are good). I feel most comfortable in natural sunlight (morning / evening especially) or at night.
  • I adore tea. My favourite 'genres' of tea are Rooibos (not technically tea I know), White tea, and Black tea.
  • Whilst I adore lots of tea and have favourite blends, I'm a bit of a minimalist so instead of having a cupboard filled with different specific teas, I stock three base teas at a given time and then blend in my own fruit and spices at compile time like a good programmer.
  • On the minimalism note; all of my regular clothes fit into one drawer. I have a second drawer that contains my training gear in addition to some grooming things.
  • I really like plain block colours on most things. My clothes are generally unbranded (at least visibly) and un-patterned, with the exception of a few shirts with stripes.
  • I started wearing bracers (suspenders for US-English speakers) because I read they're healthier and I hate feeling pressure around my gut. Now I actually quite enjoy how they look as well as how they feel.
  • I love the sea and own a boat called The Morning Star, it's currently docked in a posh middle-class marina where people live-aboard. It needs a little bit of work with things rigging here and there, and the plan is to move into the boat soon to live; eventually I want to take it away and work remotely from somewhere with a nice calm coastline.

More soon. Probably. Maybe.

Contact Me

Inspired by @rhiaro, I thought it would be neat to list how to contact me.


I have this encrypted messenger app installed on my phone and my laptop. It's rarely open on my laptop, and I permanently have Do Not Disturb mode turned on for my phone. However if you're lucky enough to have my phone number in order to message me I will definitely see it.

Will I see it? Almost certainly.

Will I reply? I'm very likely to. Especially if you're already known to me.


Pretty much the same as Signal. On my phone, often open on my laptop. If you know my username or my phone number you can reach me there. I'm slightly more open to receiving messages from people I don't know on Telegram.

Will I see it? Almost certainly.

Will I reply? I'm very likely to. If you don't know me very well already choose Telegram over Signal.


I have two email addresses that I use for personal comms. One is fairly personal and is buried on this site somewhere, if you can find it feel free to use it to ping me. The one I'm more comfortable with you using if you don't know me very well is I will prioritise those that send me messages encryped with PGP. You can find my PGP key on the web in the usual spots.

I have email on my phone, but the notifications are turned off except for my "fairly personal" account.

Will I see it Probably.

Will I reply If I know you and you send me an email to my "fairly personal" account I'll probably reply fairly quickly. If you send me a message to communications I'll see it within the day, but it might take me a few days to respond. I'm most comfortable with email, if I don't know you or you need a longform response.


If you know my phone number you can contact me via SMS. I don't respond to messages from people I don't know, unless I suspect I've deleted the number from my phone.

Will I see it? Almost certainly.

Will I reply? If I know you; almost certainly. If I don't; probably not.

Phone call

If you know my phone number you can contact me via phone call. I have do not disturb turned on almost all the time, and phone calls from unknown numbers are sent straight to voice mail. If you leave a voice message and I recognise you, I'll phone you back as soon as I can. If you're a known number; I will probably answer the call.

Will I see it? Almost certainly.

Will I reply? If I know you; almost certainly. If I don't; probably not


I have a twitter account but it is slaved to my Brimstone install and I have decided not to check the platform going forward. I am not planning to write code to plumb incoming Twitter data (comments, messages etc) into Brimstone. I will not see the message unless I'm doing maintenance on the account.

Will I see it? Almost certainly not.

Will I reply? Nope.


I have a mastodon account. It is also slaved to my Brimstone install. If I ever get around to including activitypub support it may be superseded by my Brimstone presence on the fediverse. That said I am not planning to plumb incoming Mastodon data to Brimstone and I only check Mastodon once or twice a week.

Will I see it? Eventually, probably. Not quickly, though.

Will I reply? Probably.


08 Feb 2019, 09:45

Earl Grey is the absolute worst and you may as well drink perfume.

Last Modified: 08 Feb 2019, 14:05

life tea

01 Feb 2019, 18:41

I can't stress enough how much I'm looking forward to this mountain climb tomorrow. Although I'm socially exhausted and ideally want to be alone; being with Patchy on a hill is one of the most energising things I have ever done and I adore it.