24 June 2019
On Wednesday, I went over to Method. They regularly get outsiders in to give lunchtime talks, and they asked me to deliver something for them. I worked up an edit of “How Computers (Don’t) Think”, a lecture I do for my Hyper Island students around “AI”, Machine Learning, and implementations of it such as computer vision or speech recognition. Of course, as the title suggests, it also dives into the language and manner in which these technologies are communicated, unpacking what Marvin Minsky called suitcase words, to understand that more often than not, we’re talking about counting, arithmetic, or statistics rather than new forms of cognition. (Mike Mallazzo’s recent The BS-Industrial Complex Of Phony AI is a good point of reference on this). On the way, we took in MENACE, Clever Hans, and looked at other futures for AI beyond lazy Skynet metaphors.
Re-editing and prepping that took a moderate amount of time, but the effort was definitely worth it: the talk came out the tightest it’s ever been, and better suited to a design-agency audience. I was particularly pleased to be able to talk to one of Method’s machine-learning experts (of the very much non-bullshit kind) who clarified a few points for me but otherwise was highly enthusiastic about the accuracy and clarity of the talk.
I spent an afternoon ordering parts and components for a new Foxfield kits run, which also involved a while fettling gerbers and liasing with my Chinese producer; I do some funky things with silkscreening that aren’t always straightforward to produce. That’s all ordered now, so should be coming together in the coming weeks.
I finished my studio move: all the cruft is now tidied away on storage shelves, and my storage boxes have gone. Glad to have all that dealt with.
Beyond that, some good conversations; notably, a pleasant catch-up with Max from After The Flood, about design, strategy, and the various roles that agencies serve for their clients.
16 June 2019
I think what I’m doing at the moment is akin to gardening: tending to things that need tending to, spending time in my workspace, going at the pace of things around me. Perhaps that’s a little poetic, but that’s where I am right now: resting and reorienting, spending time on many little things.
I was on holiday until Wednesday, so a short week. I had some really pleasant meetings on Wednesday with a couple of colleagues; one a more generic catch-up about life, work, and process, and the other, a chat with Gabi from Hyper Island about what we might turn our attention to next year. It was great to hear feedback, and exciting to see what might be next – and to start thinking about what topics we might turn to.
Some PCBs cleared customs from China, and so I built up a small personal project, which appears to be working correctly (good) and will get put into place next week.
I worked on a pull request for the monome Ansible documentation (which is not currently live yet). A new mode – a port of Earthsea – is nearly ready to go live in the main branch, and a while back, I worked up some documentation for that. I think documentation’s an important thing, especially for tools and instruments; it’s all too easy for us to work on new features without thinking about explaining them. So whilst scanner darkly worked on the code, I wrote some docs. I spent my flight back from Berlin on Tuesday making a few new images and updating the docs to reflect the latest state of the patch. That got merged in and will go live when the new firmware is completed. A nice community contribution to be able to make in my downtime.
And, to wrap up, I did a quick stocktake to work out what I needed to order for a new run of Foxfield kits. With that out of the way, I can put a few orders into China and get the house in order.
Not much else to report, in a good way. Reading, clearing up, admin, ordering storage for the new studio.
11 June 2019
I had a few meetings throughout the week, speaking to somebody about a very early-stage startup, and the role technology might play in it. Nothing very firm right now, but an interesting conversation with an interesting peer, which, right now, is exactly the sort of thing I have time for. Also, a quick conversation about something that may become more concrete in the coming weeks – but it’s at that level of liklihood that doesn’t warrant a codename yet.
I also spent some time on Thursday evening comparing notes with a former colleague about particular aspects of design, and sharing what I’d learned in my career so far around that.
I moved studio this week. I’ve shared with the PAN/Location Games crew for about five years, and they’ve been excellent studio mates and good time. But an opportunity came up for a space perhaps more suited to my freelance needs, so I’m now a couple of doors down – still inside Makerversity – with a small gaggle of freelancers in a shared studio space. It’s a really nice crowd, and I’m hoping it’ll suit my needs and practice well.
Finally, a bit of tinkering with some SAMD51 microcontrollers – the big brother of the SAMD21 chips I’ve been playing with. This are Cortex M4F chips, with floating-point support, and Adafruit have ported the Teensy Audio library to them. So I’ve been tinkering with running some(body else’s) DSP code on them, and seeing if they’ll make a suitable generic bare-chip solution for audio projects… with USB firmware upload, of course.
The project-based work I do always leads to an ebb and flow, and as periods of deep attention end, it’s useful to spend some time in reflection. So I’m not rushing into any new projects too fast. I’m taking a brief breather from client work, working on some personal projects and exploration. I’m collating past project work not just for my website update, but also for my own contemplation – it’s useful to look back on a body of work. And I’m spending some time tinkering with new things, rather than just skimming documentation before I get back to work. Alongside all this: conversations with new people, catching up with peers and old friends. Stocking back up after a period of flow.
31 May 2019
A quiet week in the studio, looking to the future, and taking some downtime.
I spent some afternoons writing up a fair few more projects. No, they’re not live on this site yet – there’s one big one to go and then the copy for the new site is largely in place. Next up will be sorting out the infrastructure and deploying it!
As part of that, I added a simple
Makefileto the application to handle some basic tasks, and, following Alice’s example wrote a simple
make weektask to make a new blogpost file with the correct week number. Good!
Otherwise, I spent time meeting colleagues and peers and having a good chats about all manner of topics; good to reset my head, open up some new ideas, think about some new topics, and root myself back in the world. A few tickles of potential work via email, but mainly, a week spent tending the (metaphorical) garden.
Next week: office move, some more meetings, starting to get my head back into work again.
28 May 2019
The work I was doing on Highrigg wrapped up. Between weeks 332 and 333, I wrapped up my end-to-end demo, with a fully working backend, front-end authentication, and some basic live updates. As well as the text documentation, I recorded a quick screencast of the demo in operation – that’d make it easy to share with colleagues who couldn’t run the software on their setups.
And with the alpha goal hit, my contract came to an end. So I’m taking a bit of a breath, and wondering what’s next. For now, that involves wrapping up a variety of small personal pieces of work – notably, an up-to-date version of this website with several years’ worth of projects written up!
I’m also moving studio. Not very far – a new space has come up at Makerversity, so, after several years sharing with current studiomates, I’ll be moving a few doors down into a small space with some freelancers I know. It suits my needs well right now, and will be a lovely bunch to share a space with. Many thanks to Ben, Sam, and the rest of the PAN/Location Games crews for the past five years.
I also had a prospective meeting about a small workshop which sounds positive, so I’m working out how best to fit that in around studio change-around and some upcoming travel.
And, of course, this all means that I potentially have upcoming availability. If the sort of thing I do – technology strategy, prototyping engineering, interaction design – sounds like a fit for you, now’s a good time to get in touch!