Posts tagged as hensbarrow

  • The case studies on this website were getting a little stale. No more! I’ve just published lots of new case studies of individual projects over the past three years.

    The big headline that I’m most keen to talk about is a long, detailed writeup of my work on CaptionHub - a project I worked on for 3.5 years, known in this feed as Selworthy. CaptionHub is an online tool for collaboratively captioning and subtitling video. I served as technical lead and pathfinder, taking the initial idea - the “what if?” - to a prototype and beyond into a shipping product, whilst the team grew and the product acquired clients. The write-up is detailed not just because of the length time I worked on the project, but because of the way the product changed as it developed and grew in scale. It’s a project that shows the breadth of my capabilities well, and the finished product is something I’m very proud of.

    But there’s lots more in there too. Highlights include: an open source tool for musicians; teaching on the Hyper Island MA; building a digital musicbox; creating a Twitter bot for an installation at the Wellcome Collection.

    The write-ups all include extended thought on process, and, of course, link back to the relevant weeknotes that I wrote during the process.

    You can find out more at the updated projects list.

    I’m currently looking for new projects to work on: technical leadership, early stage exploration, communication of ideas, are all areas I’m keen to continue in. Topic areas I’m particularly interested in include building tools for creatives and professionals, the bridge between the physical and digital, and audio and video. I’ve written more about my capabilities here.

  • Weeks 165-166

    3 February 2016

    Twinklr is moving on very nicely. At the end of this fortnight, I wrapped up a first pass of rewriting the existing code. The music box now happily plays in a wide variety of scales, with any note selectable as root: that makes it much easier to play in key with other musicians, or to improvise around existing pieces of music. It already makes the whole thing much more instrumenty.

    I also worked together a simple save/load mechanism with eight memories: the instrument stores not only the position of notes, but also the scale, root, and length of the stave, maing it easy to restore a state you once had.

    And finally, at the end of this three-week period, I rewrote my code for spitting MIDI out of the device. There’s now a simple-to-use MIDI preference panel, making it easy to reload available inputs, alter the length of notes that you’ll send out, and a ‘panic’ button to reset all output. It’s really coming together.

    Selworthy is being tightened into place for a new deployment: that means shoring up some minor issues, and lots of little improvements based upon user feedback. I’m also overhauling the code to make it easier to bring other developers into the project.

    I spent a quick hour of lunch assembling the latest revision of the Walton PCB and we finally have a fully functioning version. I’m thinking about replacing one of the components – there’s some mechanical tolerance I’m not happy with – but now the whole shebang is working, it’s worth working out what to do next with the project: is it something to keep to myself? To open source? To offer for purchase as a kit? I might talk to some people about it shortly.

    And finally, I spent some time tinkering with some electronics as a spin-off from Twinklr: exploring an aspect of its interactions and translating them to a slightly different environment. That involved first just breadboarding up some components to discover how they worked; this went surprisingly well, and I think I’m going to keep pursuing this angle of the project in odd moments.

  • Weeks 161-162

    4 January 2016

    Last weeknotes for 2015!

    The end of the year isn’t always quiet for me: I’m often pounding on until the end; may as well make use of all that time. And in some ways, this year was no different. There was various client work to wrap up, and remaining time to get Twinklr underway.

    I added one new feature to Selworthy, altering the domain model to make it easier for the standalone version to handle multiple clients with different needs. Didn’t take long, but will definitely make it more useful even for internal usage. The tool is beginning to see internal usage in anger, which is great: the client are finding important issues much faster as a result, but are also seeing marked productivity gains that we hoped it’d lead to. As a developer, that’s exciting and rewarding.

    I went over to Brixton to install Roshill for Oubliette: getting the electronics from the workbench into the room and the final enclosures. Mike and Dave gave me a good hand with this and, after some hairy installation moments, we ended up with a working puzzle. A quick board of pull-down resistors I’d built up beforehand made all the difference.

    New PCBs for Walton arrived. I’d hoped these would fix the bug and in one sense, they did – but another bug still remained. I’ve now sussed what it is, though, and the only way around it is Ordering The Right Part. So I’ve got some 3PDT switches coming from Germany – along with some more equipment for the workbench – and we should have a final revision in early January.

    I got inducted on the laser cutter at Makerversity, and put it to use. First, I built a test front panel for Walton; the good news is my new workflow for doing so works, and everything fitted. The engraving still needs some work, but I think it’s definitely going to be a goer for prototypes.

    I also spent some time beginning to try fabricating some useful odds and sods for Twinklr. At the end of the year, I designed a test jig in Fusion 360 – in 3D – and then worked out how to bring it down to cuttable flat pieces, which I then produced. A big leap for me: CAD is not my natural environment, but now I can see how that workflow might work, and I know that one more thing in the project will be doable.

    I rewrote the Twinklr software. Already? Well, it turned out that the Raspberry Pi wasn’t hugely happy with endless 800*480 Canvas rendering, so I rebuilt the code to render in SVG. This had lots of neat side effects: it makes a few new feature we’re interested in much easier, and it begins the ‘tidying’ of the code to make it easier to work on. It also makes a few other things easier – in particular, animation – which is always good.

    On a less successful note, I spent a long while wrestling with Raspbian Jessie and USB audio, and am coming to the conclusion that before I spend any longer on it, I’m going to start again on Wheezy. The Pi is a frustratingly… idiosyncratic beast. I’m considering other options for Twinklr – not very seriously, given how suitable the Pi+Touchscreen combo is – but a day of messing around with Linux audio config really did make “not very” become a bit more seriously.

    As ever, more Twinklr notes – and scrapbooking – are on the Twinklr Notebook.

    And that was 2015. Yearnotes to come likely, but in the meantime: happy new year.

  • Weeks 159-160

    16 December 2015

    The penultimate weeknotes of the year – and late they are, owing to end-of-year busyness. But nontheless, what happened?

    Selworthy continued with its lick of polish: I started tidying up some UI interactions, and tidying some features. I also got slightly sidetracked with an issue with Redis on one of our staging boxes, which ate some time, but was swiftly resolved thanks to the investment I’d put into Ansible earlier in the year. So that was a relief.

    Roshill, the puzzle I’m building for Oubliette, moved forward quite a lot: we integrated the mechanical components (primarily stepper motors) and I debugged most of the electronic issues – much of which came down to needing some pull-downs, and ensuring the security of various connections. It’s nearly completed, and in the final weeks of the year we’ll install it in the space.

    I spent a couple of days working on exploring some data and sketching in code with George over at Good, Form and Spectacle. An interesting few days; some careful exploration of a relatively small dataset led to insight from even the smallest of our interventions, and it was great to work with George again.

    MV Works kicked off with the chance to meet the rest of the cohort and get a feel for the space and the project. Fun to meet so many people properly, and various plans have already started forming. I ordered some initial components to test my new hardware plans with, and also began planning an overhaul of the code. Oh, and I kicked off a Tumblr notebook for the project, to act as both a scrapbook of things we’re interested in and a place to store work in progress. I’ll no doubt continue to write weeknotes around it, but it’s also nice to just have a rolling scrapbook to post to.

    Tangentially, I had an interesting Skype conversation with Dean Taylor. Dean wanted to sound out ideas around interaction design and sound production, and we ended up having a really interesting chat about all manner of things – but in particular, what I’ve taken to calling instrumentness; it was really handy as a way of framing my thoughts for Twinklr a little.

    And finally: a studio move to fit around all that. I’m no longer in East London, but based out of Makerversity in Somerset House, just off the Strand. (I’m still with studiomates PAN, though). It’s a great space, and has wonderful facilities and people; looking forward to spending time there.

  • Twinklr itself

    I’m pleased to announce Richard Birkin and I have been selected as part of the 2015-2016 cohort. We’ve received funding to work until April 2016 on a new iteration of Twinklr – our physical/digital music box.

    We’re going to spend the time iterating on the hardware, software, and enclosure, adding functionality and hopefully making the build more repeatable. Along the way, we’ll be documenting our progress, and exploring the opportunities the object – the instrument – affords.

    We’re really excited – this news comes just as we wrap up the first phase of exploratory work. It’s a hugely exciting opportunity – the space to design an instrument for performance and composition, to build an object to create with, and to develop this idea that’s been percolating slowly. Of course, we’ll share all our progress along the way. It’s going to be good.

  • Weeks 157-158

    24 November 2015

    Two more weeks have pasted, which means two more weeks of contiguous weeknotes to write up.

    I finished my first pass at Roshill – a puzzle I’m building for Oubliette Escape Rooms. Dave provided a second frontpanel for it, after the first had a few holes cut too small, and this one was much better. My new approach to wiring paid off, and by the end of Week 157 I’d wired the puzzle together and written most of the microcontoller code. I also met the mechanical engineer working on another critical part of the prop, and we worked out how we could piece our work together. There’s a second pass of work to come, but everything’s in a really good state, and it’s nicely maintainable – very easy to swap out individual components if they fail, thanks to an awful lot of spade connectors I crimped on.

    My PCBs I ordered for Walton arrived, so I set about assembling one. The good news is that the PCB broadly functions correctly: I’d read the datasheets correctly, and the custom parts I’d had to make from scratch in EAGLE were all entirely correct. However, there was a significant flaw in the circuit (mainly to do with how negative voltage behaves) and so I’m going to need to take a second pass; I made my learning smile and moved on. Fortunately, some debugging (ably assisted with insight from James) solved the main issue.

    I also took the opportunity to lasercut another frontpanel for that project. This too had some issues, largely down to my design process. I’ve resolved those by finding a workflow to get from EAGLE to SVG – namely, using the handy gerber2svg, which does exactly what you might think, and has the added bonus of being a command-lne tool. That’s all helped me have 100% confidence in the frontpanels from here on out. By the end of week 158, I had a second design of the PCB with the error corrected that was just about ready to send off for manufacture – although I have a sneaky feeling some last-minute tweaks (or even functionality) might be added before then.

    Selworthy is gearing up to be handed over to new developers and deployed; I’ve been reviewing how some of its dependencies are packaged, and building out a secondary command-line tool to support it.

    Richard playing

    Most excitingly, I went up to Richard’s studio in Belper for a day of playing with Twinklr, filming and photographing it to document the end of the first phase of the project. It was by all measures a success; we got done what needed doing, but, more importantly, we lost ourselves in it. It was a joy to watch Richard just playing this instrument we’d built. After we had fixed a few minor issues and demonstrated basic functionality, we then plugged Twinklr into an analogue synthesizer I’d taken up, and thence into a long effects chain. And then I just watched as Richard explored and composed, writing patterns and melodies on Twinklr that played out on the synth, and the time just passed. A really good couple of days; I’m looking forward to sharing this project more properly with you in the immediate future.

  • Weeks 154-155

    26 October 2015

    A fragmented fortnight, but lots of things moving in a variety of directions:

    • Selworthy is in a holding pattern whilst we wait for a few pieces beyond my control to fall into place.
    • Twinklr is pretty much at the end of its initial phase – some painting, staining, and filming to do – but there’s a possible future for it that I’ve been doing some work applying for.
    • Roshill and Walton have had me staring into the maw of electronic component retailers: how many thousands of flick-switches are available? Now, it turns out, I know. I’ve been testing a variety of switches for Roshill, and Walton’s seen me staring at EAGLE, moving many things around a PCB as I test a variety of ideas.
    • Lots of meetings – potential future work, catching up with peers; all very positive, and lots of things to chew over.
    • And, to cap it all, I spent a pile of week 155 just being ill at home; much-needed bed rest made me functional again pretty fast, and saved the studio my sniffling.

    Walton and Roshill will perhaps become more evident over time, but for now, they’re going to keep me ticking over. So whilst it was an interesting fortnight for me, there’s not a vast amount to report publicly. Hopefully that’ll change soon!

  • Week 152-153

    5 October 2015

    Week 152 saw my return to the studio after a week off, which was an excellent tonic after a busy August.

    I spent much of the fortnight building a standalone environment for Selworthy. It was initially configured for an internal environment provided by one of its end-users, but my client wanted their own install to be able to demonstrate it and use it themselves.

    I did this with Ansible. It’s a tool I didn’t know well at the beginning of the fortnight, but by the end, it had already proved its value several times over.

    Ansible is a tool to help provision servers. It allows me to write small rules to describe the configuration of a server component, that will be idempotent – I can run them as many times as I’d like, and they either bring the server up to that configuration, or do nothing.

    To begin with, it felt quite slow: prodding at syntax until the behaviour I want has been applied. I built the environment by building and destroying servers repeatedly, continuing to test that it’d work from a standing start. And each time I do that, the fact that all previous steps just work immediately becomes a huge advantage.

    The other advantage is that Selworthy actually consists of two separate application – the main application, and a media-encoding tool – which have fairly similar system requirements. I built the Ansible playbooks for the media encoder first – which took a bit under a week of work. Then, however, it took about an hour to provision the main application server – because so much of the work had already been done and could be reapplied. It’s useful to be able to provision boxes so fast, and I’m definitely going to be continuing to use Ansible on future projects. The value isn’t just in the repeatability: it’s also in the ease of sharing it with other potential developers – guaranteeing that they can build the same environments as you. I’m not a great sysadmin, and it’s never going to be the main focus of my work, but the more controlled the environment I’m deploying to, the more confident I can be in it – and that’s a huge advantage.

    By the end of the work, I could build the entire environment for Scribe in about ten minutes, from a single command, and then deploy each application to it in another single command. I was pretty pleased with that.

    Around that work, I fitted a variety of other small pieces of work. I had an excellent chat with Holly Gramazio over coffee one morning, where she told me how Now Play This had gone, and we had a long conversation about the curation of games. It’s always valuable as a freelancer to be able to chat to colleagues, especially those at the edges of some of the spaces I work in, and Holly’s always a delight to talk with; nice to get out of the software for a morning, and hear about other friends’ successes.

    I spent an afternoon at the Polyphonic Playground Lab, watching how musicians worked with the playground, and thinking about ways to potentially involve a much wider audience as part of the project. It was also a good opportunity to think about the intersection of music, sound and interaction design, which I’m thinking about a lot at the moment. That overlapped with the TouchOSC controller for Panoramical that I built the weekend before, as a small personal piece of tinkering.

    Finally, I spent some time chatting with Richard about bringing Twinklr into land. We’ve got a plan of how to do that, which should fit around our life in the next few weeks, and an idea of where we’d like to take it next. As part of that exploration, I kicked off an attempt to rebuild it in Unity. As ever when porting code from something you know well to something less well, it can feel painfully slow at times, and as a result, I’ve only got code for drawing staves at the moment – but it’s a beginning, and something to build on. I’ve been thinking about a Unity build simply to make it easier to iterate on the real-time aspects of the code, and especially to consider more complex interactions that will become harder and harder to write in the browser.

    Oh – and I took the opportunity, nearly six months on, to finally write up Rubato, another project Richard and I worked on together. As usual, project write-ups are always slower than I anticipate (and I still carve out a fair chunk of time for them), but I’m pleased with how that turned out.

  • Weeks 148-149

    1 September 2015

    Still got my head down, which means we’re still on fortnightnotes for the time being.

    Weeks 148 and 149 are the usual story: a variety of interesting meetings, keeping the Twinklr ball kicked up into the air, and taking Selworthy well past the inner marker on its landing path.

    Twinklr’s firmly in Richard’s hands – he sent me some photos of a rough jig for the enclosure, which definitely felt right to me, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that moves on. I spent some time thinking about a particular possible spin-off for the project, which was an exciting change of direction.

    I spent much of the fortnight deploying Selworthy into its new environment. That’s involved integrating with external authentication providers, collaborating with other developers on the configuration of its environment, and debugging issues with particular versions of libraries and packages.

    Needless to say, all quite challenging. There’s a lot of context switching, between server administration, deployment, researching new versions of packages, and then writing application code to reflect those changes. Each context shift takes me a while to recover from, and so I’ve been working on my tenacity.

    By the end of the fortnight, many, many moving pieces were settling into their final positions, with only the last bit of fettling left to go. Sometimes, this is what the work looks like – just pushing everything a little bit further forward.

  • Weeks 146-147

    18 August 2015

    A busy fortnight, bringing Twinklr to life, and pushing Selworthy along its landing approach.

    Selworthy continues on its flight path, roughly in line with our plans and projections. The current work is to re-architect the project a little, so that it can live entirely inside a firewalled internal environment. Initially, we built it using web-based services, and so we’re slowly removing those. The main work there is building a secondary application to handle media encoding and processing, replacing Transloadit.

    As a result, I’ve spent much of the past few weeks neck-deep in Sidekiq and Redis, to build asynchronous queues; in Vagrant, building up virtual machines to host the new architecture (in order both co get a better understanding of the live environment, and to take advantage of XSendfile); overhauling lots of tests, and finding out about the finer details of CentOS (as I’m usually a Ubuntu user). Lots to take on board.

    And sometimes, that means diverging from the shortest route between two paths. The port to Vagrant began when I needed to serve the app through a real web server; that felt like a detour, and the days spent on it felt like a digression from my critical path. When I’d finished the work, though, it turned out I’d not only achieved the goal I was setting out to, but also derisked some later work. It felt like slowing down; in fact, it saved me time. So I’m reminding myself to trust my own competency: if I’ve made a decision, it’s probably a sensible one, and right now, sensible decisions trump fast ones.

    By the end of these two weeks, the project is in a really good place: the new architecture works, is tested, and I’m more confident in it. I have a good map in my head for what’s coming next, too. So: onwards!

    Meanwhile, Twinklr made some great progress.

    The PCB manufacture I’d been exploring in the past couple of weeks didn’t turn out so well: due to various misunderstandings with the way Fritzing labels files, and some misunderstandings with drillbits, the home-made PCBs weren’t particularly satisfactory. On the plus side: I know they’re possible to build. However, I’ve explored getting some simple boards made – from the same layouts – with Ragworm, and look forward to seeing how they turn out. So despite my own PCB manufacture process not working out so well, it’s been useful to wrap my head around the design process.

    Richard came down for an afternoon in Week 147. He brought with him the crank handle, attached to a rotary encoder, and quickly held together in a prototype jig. After some staring at a data-sheet, we wired the encoder into my circuitry, plugged into the tablet, and fired up Twinklr.

    the Twinklr test-rig

    What happened next was we lost quite a lot of time in the best possible way. We spent a while just playing with the sequencer, tweaking and adjusting the code to fit the feel of the handle, and seeing what suited it. We spent some time sketching and discussing what the final enclosure will look like – something beautiful and very much like an instrument; I spent a while looking at pictures of the old RCA theremin (in which the instrument was also its own music stand, and designed like a piece of furniture).

    I’m also using the Chrome Web MIDI API to let Twinklr control other instruments: we’re interested in how other musicians or performers might adapt it with their own work. I wired it into my Microbrute and we spent a good while seeing how the crank-handle sequencer felt attached to the analogue synthesizer; it turned out to be a great fit for a performative, tactile synth.

    It was great to see the project coming together, even if we only spent an afternoon together. Very pleasing to feel it working, and to begin to see the opportunities and edges for what to do next with it. The next immediate step, though, is building it up, and I’ve given Richard all the electronics to explore enclosing it. Good stuff.

  • Weeks 144-145

    3 August 2015

    A busy couple of weeks, both on Selworthy and Twinklr.

    This fortnight saw the last few features added to Selworthy before it goes into a period of deployment and re-architecting. Some were minor patches, but one overhauled the shape of the permissions system somewhat. A combination of diligent QA and automated testing helped there. It’s in a pretty good place to be taken forward into its production environment now – which is going to be my main focus in August.

    I also spent a while building up the user-facing documentation for it in Zendesk. Selworthy is a complex tool; whilst we’ve tried to make it as intuitive as we can, clear documentation (especially around the various user roles) is also an important deliverable: once that reference is available, we can help users on the path to mastery more easily. Rather than writing it as a long swathe, we’ve been building it inside a “knowledge base” tool. That’s been really useful: it makes it easier just to hyperlink between articles, rather than duplicating information, and the shorter chunks make it much easier to rewrite over time.

    Twinklr’s going well too. I went along to the Hardware Coffee Morning to have a chat with peers and show it a little; ironically, I mainly showed the software component of it. That’s pretty much where I’d like it to be for the time being, so the next thing is getting the hardware to 1.0 too.

    That was the focus of week 145: I finally began the process of manufacturing self-etched single-sided PCBs. Whilst these are still relatively simple, they’re a step away from stripboard and jumper leads, and it’s been a useful thing to learn. By the end of the week, the layouts for the very simple Teensy breakout and less-simple amplifier were complete in Fritzing, and I’d managed – after a day of varying all the variables – to etch a single-sided PCB to my satisfaction.

    I’m using toner transfer to make the etch mask: print an inverse of the mask on glossy paper with a laser printer, line it up with the PCB, and then iron it for about six minutes; the toner comes off the paper and ends up on the PCB. Then, fifteen minutes in a ferric chloride bath, and the copper all etches away – apart from where the toner covered it. Frustrating the first few times, but I found the knack in the end. I think the next project after this might involve getting double-sided boards manufactured – but a combination of time and availability has meant that DIY has been the way ahead. Very satisfying to spend some mornings in the workshop, too, rather than at a desk.

    Next week, I’m going to drill it, solder it up, and do the same for an amplifier board. That should take very little time – leaving the rest of my capacity to go on to pushing Selworthy through to launch.

  • Weeks 142-143

    22 July 2015

    Fortnightnotes are becoming a bit of a habit, it seems. That’s partly because I’ve settled into a bit of a routine on Selworthy, so there’s not always that much to mention – and at the same time, I’m moving at a fair pace, so it’s been hard to squeeze them in. Let’s fix that now.

    In the past few weeks, my main focus has been on adding a few new key feature to Selworthy. Most of these have slotted in reasonably well, and we’re inches away, it feels, from being what we think of as feature complete. As well as bringing the 1.0 in to land, we’re thinking about re-engineering parts of it for deployment in its intended home, and what the future life of the product will look like.

    I spent a day in week 142 tinkering on a WordPress installation with Matt Webb, moving it to a new home, upgrading it and fettling it a little; a day of gentle pair-sysadminning, carefully working through a list of tasks and double-checking them. It was a pleasure to catch up with Matt, as ever, and we made good time on the work.

    I’ve also pushed Twinklr a bit further forward – mainly in terms of planning out how I’m going to manufacture a few single-sided PCBs to keep its innards tidy – and started the process of acquiring tools and materials to launch that into the world.

  • Weeks 140-141

    3 July 2015

    Over the past two weeks, I’ve continued chipping away at the Selworthy featureset, exploring minor additions that might have significant value. That’s not always been successful: sometimes, the material just won’t quite do what I’d like, and that’s meant returning to the drawing board a few times. But I’ve had enough successes to push forward, and at the same time, we’ve begun exploring both a deployment of the product and potential futures for it.

    There’s not a lot more to say really, other than yes, it’s continuing, and moving forward, and I’m into a bit of a routine with it.

    Meanwhile, Twinklr has leapt forward as I’ve managed to get the prototype code up and running on a tablet. We’re actually using a Windows tablet for this, simply because we need to support USB HID devices, and, ideally, run the code locally; given all Windows tablets are running Actual Windows, that seemed like the best fit for the project. Initial results are promising; I’ve had to remember how to write batch files – something I’ve not done for over a decade – but it’s as satisfying on a touchscreen as I hoped. Richard and I have planned out the work we need to do to hit our first ‘official’ milestone, and it’s all very doable: he’s making good progress on the aesthetics and mechanics of the project, and I’m hoping to meet him in the middle with working technology.

  • Week 139

    15 June 2015

    Very quick weeknotes this week, so let’s break out the bullet points:

    • Selworthy hit the milestone we were aiming for, wrapping up a list of key features. There’s still a long backlog of ‘wants’, though; some are large and monolithic, but I’ve got some space to start implementing some smaller features, so I started rattling through those, alongside continuing to think about deploying the application.
    • An interesting meeting on Tuesday about a project bringing a digital component to an installation piece focused on music, performance, and audience participation. A good session, and hopefully more to say there soon as it takes shape.
    • A brief piece of experimentation in a spare moment hacking on Twinklr, exploring Chrome’s Web MIDI support. That turned out very well, and so again, something to show off in the future! For the time being, exciting to play with browser technologies talking to the outside world without ridiculous plugins or other interventions.
  • Week 138

    9 June 2015

    The usual pattern of the week – primarily Selworthy, coupled with a few personal projects or trickling future work forward – was broken up this week with a couple of days workshopping with Max and Mike from After The Flood. Productive, interesting, and challenging as ever.

    Selworthy continues to be in a strong position: we’re wrapping up a few very last features before we get ready for deploying it for a client.

    And Richard and I continue to chat about Twinklr. Lots of interesting discussion points, from player pianos to modular sequencers this week, and lots of new images shared to our moodboard on Pinterest. We’re at the phase of the project where the more ideas and diversions, the better: we’ll start narrowing things down later.

  • Week 137

    1 June 2015

    A short week after returning from vacation, but a decent amount to note down.

    Selwothy had a pilot run, being given to real users to work with, and I’ll find out more about how that went in Week 138. It seemed good, though – no code errors, lots of work put through it. I spent the two days that the pilot ran for wrapping up lots of minor issues on the snaglist, and a few items on the client’s wishlist. The hands-on attention its had from the end users in the past few weeks has really helped tidy up some rough edges. As well as going over the wishlist, I also started planning out a next potential phase of work for Selworthy.

    Friday was largely given over to meetings: lunch with George from Good Form & Spectacle, an ever-useful chat with Tom Taylor from Offset, and then catching up with Richard over coffee about, amongst other things, Hensbarrow. A nice way to end the week.

  • Weeks 134-136

    20 May 2015

    Three weeknotes rolled into one. Although it’s not, really, as you’ll see.

    Week 134 and 135 were spent pushing on on Selworthy: so close to the finish line, and yet lots of potential crinkles to iron out. We hit our deadline pretty much feature-complete, with a decent number of snags gone. Energetic QA on the part of the client caught all the unintended implementation errors, and most of them were easy to patch up – with only a short burst of frenetic Javascript towards the end to iron out one crinkle. This was also the period where I handed over infrastructure to the client, helping them get set up on Github and so forth – and that’s meant we’ve moved issue tracking over to Github Issues, which they’ve really taken to.There are already future feature requests floating around, but for now, we’ve got a really solid end-to-end application and people are excited by it.

    Otherwise, the odd smattering of meetings, including a trip to Playhubs to see Alex and his Fabulous Beasts. And then, at the end of all that work on Selworthy, a holiday: week 136 is spent out of the studio, by the sea.

    (And, as I sit by the sea, Richard tells me we’ve snagged a very small bit of funding to take the tinkering we did a couple of weeks back forward – lovely news, and celebrate with beer and a read).

  • Week 133

    5 May 2015

    Selworthy is in a good shape. The unknown unknowns are slowly shrinking, and much of Week 133 was spent polishing up the workflow elements – tidying up what happens on state change, fixing up the UI dependent on what state the project or user was in, and making sure the experience was coherent for an end-user. By the end of the week, all that had slipped was the dedicated work of transferring the infrastructure to the client, but that shouldn’t take too long to wrap up.

    I also spent some time tidying the UI, and found an excuse to put Flexbox to good use, evening out some layouts – how I’d love that technology to have existed a few years back!

    I also spent some time porting the audit trail within the application, as well as things that might have once lived in callbacks, to use EventBus. I really didn’t need anything complicated, but I like the Pub/Sub model, and EventBus provides a simple, synchronous way of propagating events around the app. It means my controllers are much more lightweight, and everything that comes down to being triggered when something else happenes is now tidied away. (I don’t mind that it’s synchronous: I’m using it to keep the application code tidy, rather than for asynchronicity).

    Barring a few other pieces of functionality, it’s now at the point where the best way to work out what’s next is to use it in anger: give the client some time with it, and test our assumptions. I think there’s still going to be a bit more to do, but nothing insurmountable. B

    In the middle of the week, I spent an afternoon tinkering with a small prototype that Richard was idly wondering about. It seemed easier for me to see if it’d work by building it, and so I spent some pleasant hours messing around with Canvas, Backbone, and the HTML5 Audio API. It turns out I’ve learned a lot in the process of Selworthy, and I managed to come up with pretty neatly designed. More to the point, it also made us both grin a lot. So perhaps there’s some more work to be done there. A fun diversion.