02 December 2014
Some of these Things are not like the others was a a talk I gave at Web Directions South, in Sydney, in 2014. It’s the last variation of a talk I’ve been developing over 2014, about connected objects and, specifically, about connected objects for shared and civic usage. I gave a version of this, entitled A Lamppost Is A Thing Too at Solid in the summer of 2014. This is the longest, most complete version of it, and so I’ve preserved it here, derived from the script I spoke from.
10 February 2014
I’m delighted to be able to announce that Hello Lamppost, which I worked on with PAN Studio and Gyorgyi Galik as the inaugural winner of the 2013 Playable City Award, has been shortlisted in the digital category for Designs of the Year 2014.
It’s great company to be nominated amongst – Bare Conductive, Citymapper, and Oculus Rift to name a few – and we’re looking forward to showing Hello Lamppost off in the awards exhibition, from March 26. Rather exciting.
13 November 2013Driftwood is a talk I gave at Playark 2013. It was meant to be a talk about leftovers (the theme of the conference being ‘reclaim’), and about Hello Lamp Post. In the writing, it turned into a broader overview of my own work – on six years of projects around cities and play. I was quite pleased with how it turned out, and wanted to share it on the web. (This is a roughly edited version of the script I spoke from).
02 September 2013
A short week, owing to the summer Bank Holiday on Monday.
I’m pretty firm about doing everything in my power, as a freelancer, to take bank holidays and the like. Yes, it’s a Monday like any other. But it’s also time when many of my friends are off, and it’s good to be in sync with the rest of the world. And they have value for yourself, as well; not just enforced time off, but a space to see what your brain looks like outside work. Michael Lopp touched on this in his excellent post about the nature of work this week:
This is why vacations are essential. They hold up the mirror and show how much energy you’re spending simply to achieve baseline steady state in your day.
It’s useful to be reminded where my head is. It turns out that the answer is: running a little hot. Work progresses well, but right now it tends to involve a million tiny tasks. Those tasks are often completed quickly, but they weigh heavy until they are. There’s a high cost of motion at the moment, but it comes down as I tick things off – and lists are helping a lot.
My main focus in week 45 is Sore. I went down to Brighton on Wednesday to demonstrate it, which went very well, and opened up discussion about its final exhibition. It also set up the work for the rest of the week – bits of work on the public website, and more materials to be acquired for the installation.
I note this week that Watershed have released their own film about Hello Lamppost; it’s a nice summary of the project, and some of our thinking behind it. (It also contains the only handheld tracking shot of me hammering at code to date. Yes, I really do hit the keyboard that hard, as any former office mates will tell you.)
Next week sees continued progress on Sore, which I’ll be giving an early preview of at Improving Reality. I’ll also be down in Brighton for dConstruct, so if you’re around and want to talk, do say hi.
16 July 2013
Weeknotes are a day late this week – and for good reason.
I spent Week 39 working on Hello Lamp Post – Monday to Wednesday from the studio in Shoreditch, and then decamping to Watershed on Thursday until the beginning of this week to launch the project into the world.
Needless to say, a busy week: lots of features to be wrapped up, content to be refined, and plussing to be done. We hammered our way through the project until well into Saturday night, but come the launch event on Sunday, it was in good shape.
I will be entirely honest: I find launches hard, and do my absolute best to avoid “crunch”: it really doesn’t suit the way I work; long nights tend to introduce as many bugs as I fix. Thankfully, we had a relatively sane launch week (as these things go): lots of teamwork, some late nights working away, lots of eating well, and watching the sun go down from the Arnolfini fairly regularly.
There were, of course, hairy moments (most notably, a strange set of eigenbugs that were solved with the discovery that
twilio-rubyisn’t threadsafe). But it all came off in the end. And I’m especially pleased with how effective the final week was: there’s a great deal to be said for getting the team in a single location, with only one thing on our minds. In that final haul, we really moved the project on a lot, and could tell we had something on our hands when we sat playing with it on Saturday night, all chuckling at what was happening in our hands as if it was something alive, and not something we’d made.
I’d primarily been focusing on the technology of the project in that final week, but there’s so much more to it than just the code. There’s the content within the experience; all the marketing and advertising; the graphic branding that’s permeated Bristol; the PR efforts; the beautiful models we’re using as an installation to promote the project; all manner of little details, all of which have come together.
When you’re in the middle of it all, it’s hard to see the whole; I always find that especially hard. I went to the launch party still a bit nervous, waiting for the emails from Exceptional, the people darting up to me with bugs.
And none of that happened. What happened was: people had fun. They surprised us. They told the objects storied, they laughed at the jokes, they were surprised by what one another had said. We drank champagne on College Green, and all was right with the world. By 4pm, I was out of the project-mines, and back in the world, and I could see what we’d made. It was pretty good.
All of which is a long-winded but personal way of saying what launches feel like for me, especially launches of creative works. When you’re in the mine, it’s hard to have any perspective. It’s very satisfying to see the view I got on Sunday when I came out. Thanks to Ben, Gyorgyi, and Sam, the rest of the core Hello Lamp Post team; to Clare, Verity, and all at Watershed; to Justin, our helping hands throughout that final week; and to all the collaborators throughout the project. I’ll write more about it formally soon, but in the context of weeknotes, it’s still important to say these things.
Week 39, then: Hello Lamp Post finally released into the world, advertised to a city, and already surprising and delighting us. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to make such work, and – as I often say – to make the world a little more weird.