11 July 2019
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.
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.
8 December 2018
A busy week, especially after the disruption of moving house.
I spent one day at CaptionHub on Selworthy, finishing up some the smart-quotes work and moving on to refining the design of downloading data.
On Wednesday, I finally finished some prototype builds of 16n, and they’ve come out beautifully. I’m hoping to open-source the whole thing before Christmas, and get those prototypes to the musicians I’m making them for.
Otherwise, I spent Thursday-to-Saturday teaching with Hyper Island: the first campus days of the Digital Technologies module of the Digital Management MA. I spent time earlier in the week refining and revising the course materials I’d be teaching – on Invention, AI and Machine Learning, and Data. The students were, as ever, a great bunch: engaged, sharp, and full of insightful discussion and questions. The best kind of classes.
I get Sunday off, and then on Monday, I go to Bulb for Highrigg. It’s going to be a busy end to the year.
2 December 2018
Busy week, in and out of the studio.
On Selworthy, I spent some time wrapping up work on a new ingest format, and then spending time staring into the maw of character encoding – and, in particular, working out what our policy on ‘smart quotes’ is – and coming to the conclusion that rather than doing something automatically, we should offer up an option to end-users as to what they want the default to be. And so there’s some more work to wrap up next week on the UI for that.
I continued with a bunch of work for next week’s teaching at Hyper Island – overhauling another talk, refining the brief with our pretend-client, going over what our guests would be doing. It’s going to be a bit nip and tuck to get things into place for next week, but it’s all going well, so that’s a relief.
As I hoped, the metal panels for 16n arrived – and they’re beautiful. Perfect fits, really gorgeous objects, ties the thing together. Good to know all my CAD worked out. Had to order some 1mm longer standoffs to fit the underside screws into, and so come week 311 I’ll have a final thing for myself.
And that was all there was time for: I moved house at the end of the week, which took me out of the studio. Hopefully we’ll return to normal service quickly.
25 November 2018
Time is elided at the moment: I’m having a deliberately quiet period between projects and whilst lots of non-work life is all rather busy. So weeknotes are a bit more spread-out. But still worth doing.
I’ve also started work on a new piece of personal process to perhaps make this – and a few other things – easier to manage. (Nothing magic: just using Trello to treat ‘myself’ as a project). We’ll see how that works out.
Sharphaw didn’t end up happening – at least, not in the planned format. There might still be some work there in the future, but for now, that codename and work is on ice.
I’ve been dealing with some metal suppliers from Germany and Poland, who are making prototype panels for 16n. It looks like the panels will be arriving in week 310, which is exciting for that project (and also to determine if my CAD work has come out correct).
In week 309, I spent the afternoon at After The Flood, taking part in a quick workshop. Always good to work with the teams they put together, and I think we got to some useful places in it.
I’m gearing up for the Digital Technologies module on the Hyper Island MA I’ll be teaching on at the end of the year. Some of the work has needed minor touch-ups, although there’s one talk that’ll get more of a rewrite in week 310. I’ve also been securing final guests, and nailing down the project brief for the students.
Longer-term plans are emerging, too. My time on Selworthy is winding down. I’m going to wrap up there by the end of the year. And I should really explain it properly, after 3.5 years! I’ll write it up in depth soon, I hope. Great ride.
And, in the meantime: dotted the _i_s on Highrigg: a part-time contract that’ll kick off at the end of the year, and we’ll see how we go from there. Meaty, a new set of challenges for me: exciting and scary at once. Sounds like a good thing to go into 2019 with.
26 February 2018
Into the deliberate gap between projects, then.
I spent a day with Selworthy, going over what my future engagement with the project would be – something between ‘more consultational’ and ‘limiting getting hands dirty to stuff I know best’. For now, a little more handover with a new staff member, and some consultation around specific features.
Wednesday saw a debrief on the Hyper Island teaching from the course co-ordinator. Overall, it was really very positive indeed, so it seems like I’ll be working with them again at the end of this year. Really glad that the students enjoyed – and took a lot away from – the teaching, and also that they were so positive about the my peers and colleagues I invited as guest speakers. Good stuff.
I had a good chat with Rachel on Friday morning, largely about technology and our practices; it’s nice to finally have the time to catch up with peers and see what’s tickling their brain.
I also had a chat with a few folks from Sensible Object about some technology planning, essentially acting as another brain to pick, and that was I hope useful for them.
I spent some time on an engineering tip, prodding various electronics projects further along, and also sending a CAD project to be fabricated. I’d needed a particular object, and it seemed like a good time to brush up my Fusion 360 skills and get a snap-together case 3D printed. More on that in due course.
Finally, I received a new order from Thonk for Foxfield products, so started taking inventory of what I had in the studio – both in terms of complete kits and parts – and started building up an order. That’ll likely continue into Week 271, and then the ‘waiting for parts to arrive’ process will begin.
Steve also inquired into the state of the (at least) three new products on my slate. The answer is that they’re into that final 95% – namely, needing documenting and ‘productionising’, the name I give to ‘sorting out BOMs, documents, pricing spreadsheets, and making things produceable on demand’. This work is likely to kick off in Week 271.
1 February 2018
I was always expecting January to busy; it turned out even busier than I planned, and the first casualty of that was Weeknotes. I also know it probably shouldn’t have been – that weeknotes are a useful part of process even if I’m thin on capacity, and that I should make them lighter rather than skip them.
Anyhow. Here we are. Let’s run down what’s been going on:
Weeks 261 and 262 were the Christmas holidays. Very quiet, very pleasant, much-needed.
A second, concluding set of class days for Lowick, the Hyper Island Digital Management MA. I prepared three new sessions for this, called Data, Crypto, and a final one on real-world experience of digital projects. I’m particularly pleased with the Crypto session: in 60-90 minutes, it covers cryptography from a Caesar cypher through to crypto-currencies, with detours into polyalphabetic cyphers, how an Enigma machine works, how public-key encryption works, and what’s going on when you visit an HTTPS site. It turns out if you start with the simplest, pen-and-paper stuff, you can build on top of it until you have all the components to talk about other things.On top of the sessions, we had a few more guest speakers and sessions in, which went well, and the students presented their responses to their brief. All of them were super-impressive – they’d improved each day I’d seen them, and noticeably since their first days on the module. A great conclusion to my work on the course. And: perhaps there’ll be more things resembling this kind of work in 2018.
- I spent a lot of January working on Gummershow, building a digital adaptation of one of Emma Smith’s works for the re-opening of Kettle’s Yard in February. That’s nearly complete as I type: some last adjustments to make. Lots of small details to work through, and at one point, a frantic afternoon of tearing out phantomjs and replacing it with puppeteer. (That turned out alright – it turns out puppeteer is very impressive, and was a fairly straightforward replacement). I should have more to write about this next week.
- Over on Selworthy, I focused on a few areas, notably, integrating with an extenral API; fixing rendering issues with, in particular, Arabic typefaces; and the usual fettling and ongoing improvement. We also had some good architectural discussions about the future.
It doesn’t sound like much, but it was fairly wall-to-wall – producing material for teaching, running classes, and then straight into a installation software build. And now it’s done. I’ve joking said to a few people this month that I’m still in 2017, and that 2018 begins for me in February.
Well, it’s February now. Happy new year.
11 December 2017
Really busy this week, although not a lot to say for it!
A day on Selworthy to wrap a first spike of an API integration, although my colleagues have reminded me it really does need tests writing, so perhaps time to sit down and really learn vcr.
Monday and Wednesday were spent putting finishing touches to materials for Lowick – the Digital Technologies strand of Hyper Island’s Digital Management MA.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I acted as industry leader on an intensive workshop for the part-time MA students. Very intense, but very satisfying – lots of really strong discussions and exciting to see the journeys they were going on. Even in the brief time we had you could see seeds of ideas slowly unfurling. They were a lovely group to work with. It was also great to be able to get Henry, Wesley, and (some of) Strange Telemetry in to talk to them, set briefs, and run workshops; always proud to share the work of talented colleagues with others.
By Saturday night I was very much done in. Phew. A couple more weeks and then this year is done, and I’m looking forward to that Christmas break.
4 December 2017
Oops. Missed a week. There’s a lot going on at the moment:
- I set up a first meeting with my collaborator on Gummershow. I tend to find that a day sat with an artist to confirm the brief and spec is much better than any number of phone calls. So we organised a day to sit with each other and sound out the idea. I think that’ll also lead us to discovering some unknown unknowns much faster, and hopefully lead to some new conclusions. I’m looking forward to that.
- I started writing lots of course materials for Lowick. To briefly decloak: in week 259 I’m going to be running workshops for Hyper Island’s MA in Digital Management. I’m the ‘industry lead’ for the digital technologies section of the course; over two intensive sets of campus days, we’re going to be diving deep on some ideas around digital technology practice and culture, and exploring some of the squishier, important edges of these issues, particular around cultural and ethical issues. I’m excited by the guest speakers we’ve got to challenge and provoke our students. Should be good.
- I spent my time on Selworthy working a lot with APIs: continuing to expand our inbound API, and then working on some integrations with third party systems. Great to see what was once architectural work turning into features.
- And finally, I wrapped up a phase of Longcrag collaboration work, with the largest circuit board I’ve designed to date. The firmware’s all working and the BOM’s pretty much good to go, so it’s time to share it with the community that are interested in it.
20 November 2017
Two weeks with some time off in the middle.
Selworthy is settling into a bit of a rhythm now. Reviewed some pull requests, discussed architecture, fettled some infrastructure, and found time to review how the renderer works and tweak the way we’re using FFmpeg on it. Up and down the stack like a yo-yo, but we’re seeing some sizeable features being released much more quickly.
Some prototypes arrived for new Longcrag/Foxfield products from Aisler. I’d been seeing how Aisler compared to OSHpark, who for me, are still the gold-standard for prototyping. (Mainly because: their software tooling is clear and excellent, and their turnaround times, despite posting from the US, are about the fastest I’ve found). Aisler have pretty good tooling and previews (despite a confusing checkout process) and the turnaround time was comparable to OSH. I’d hoped being in Europe it’d be a tad faster, but it worked out about the same. Still, very high quality boards.
I built up the prototypes and they worked well – in that they worked, were clear to build, and had almost no silking errors on my part. So that means I’ve got three new products to get out early next year – there’s still documentation to write, BOMs to get made up, and see if the wholesaler will take them. That also means that once some admin around them is done, I can return to the Arm prototype I was working on a few weeks ago.
On Lowick, I started conversations about the content of the course and what I’d need to get done. I also started phoning and emailing colleagues from across – and outside – the technology industry to see if I can get them involved. That seems to be going alright.
In the middle of the fortnight, I went out to Berlin for Ableton Loop. I really enjoyed Loop last year; I equivocated a little about going this year, but then remembered how it left me feeling, and that made it a no-brainer. A good few days: met some new folks – perhaps even made some new friends; went to some great sessions (especially the electro-acoustics and haptics sessions); saw some great artists perform; played a bit of music myself; and put my brain into a different context. It’s an engaging, thought-provovking event that’s well-run, and so very different to many of the contexts I’m usually in. It was thought-provoking as a designer and instrument-maker; challenging as a musician; but it was also a bit of fresh-air, warm, welcoming, open; good for my head. I can recommend going to event and conference that might be more tangential to your practice than you’re used to: with any luck, it’ll probably provoke far more new ideas than what might pass as rearranging the furniture.
1 November 2017
Bullety notes for a handful of projects:
- I wrote a pitch document for Gummershow, as a way of unravelling the problems, presenting them back to the client, and making reasoned estimates. It’s given them something to think over, and has helped frame what’ll be required to pull it off.
- I said “yes” to Lowick, and started seeing what getting the ball rolling on that would be like.
- I ordered some prototypes for Longcrag/Foxfield from Aisler – I needed new protoypes for the latest round of changes, and want to see if Aisler is a viable alternative to OSHpark – they seem about as fast, cost about the same, but are based in Europe which might become an advantage.