July Newsletter - State of the Web 2023


Jilly MacKay


July 27, 2023

Are we all Xcited for the new Twitter rebrand? I’ve seen a lot of good thinkpieces/blogs about the state of the web at the moment, particularly with regards to social media vs forums. I particularly liked this one on Medium and John Scalzi’s Xit post. Thinking about ‘state of the web’ reminded me of The Oatmeal who used to do great State of the Web summary comics. I hoped Matthew Inman had done one lately (he hadn’t), but saw that he was inviting folk to sign up to his mailing list to try and make his content less reliant on social media shares.

That was the second newsletter I’d signed up to that week (the first being The Caketoonist), and it got me thinking a bit about blog content. When I was a baby researcher, and wanting to make my name in public engagement, I committed to blogging twice weekly. I remember thinking about and drafting content weeks in advance. It was a period of rapid development in terms of my communication skills and ideas about teaching, but it was also a lot of work. Over time and with new work challenges, I turned more to microblogging. And now, like many of us, I’m having to think about dusting off the old blogs again as parts of the web become unusable.

I am not sure what the internet is going to look like soon. I was, for many years, a staunch defender of social media. I didn’t mind what they did with my data because I found the service so valuable. But I have sadly come to change my mind. Not only do I see societal harm in the way algorithmic feeds organise our social media, but I am also happier for spending less time on Twitter and Facebook. I want to keep up with people, but I don’t want to be an Xer. A good friend made the point that Twitter was a place where they had built a significant platform for their voice, and how valuable that was as someone whose voice was not always heard. I completely sympathise with that point of view. Its not for me to tell anyone what social media to use, and I think I will still hang around the periphery of XTwitter, ready to dive back in if the waters start to calm, but in the mean time, I’m committing to a monthly blog. A newsletter, if you will.

Highlights This Month

Professional News

All my chat about Quality Assurance is not for nought. As of the 1st September I’ll be taking on the role of Director of Quality Assurance and Enhancement for R(D)SVS. In the interests of transparency, there wasn’t any a lot of competition for the role, but I’m really excited to have more space to work on my current fascination: quality assurance.

ggplot2 Palette Tutorial

I finally got around to learning about ggplot2 palettes and I made an University of Edinburgh palette.


A new paper I was involved with has been published: The Health of Working Dogs in Conservation in Africa

Moving to Fosstodon

On the back of the xTwitter debacle, I decided to try focussing on Mastodon more. I’ve migrated to the fosstodon server and you can find me there @jillymackay. I’m not tooting much at the moment, but maybe that’ll change. I’m in the market for a bluesky invite code if anyone fancies it. (I’ll wait for Threads till its available in the EU . . .)

Things I Found

Data Management Plans Creator

When was anyone going to tell me about the Data Management Plans Online tool? Edinburgh staff have full access to it, and I expect other universities will have it too. A great tool for thinking about how data will be collected, stored, utilised, etc.

ChatGPT in Academic Settings

The always wonderful Emily Nordmann is doing a great series of posts on ChatGPT and its use in academic settings. I’ve already learned lots:


I made Brunsviger this month (with cinnamon topping, which is apparently not traditional but I do recommend it) and it was amazing. Highly recommend. (Ruby Bhogal is baking 80 cakes from around the world on TikTok and I’m getting lots of inspiration).