23 September 2013
Three main focuses for Week 48.
Firstly, bringing Sore into land. This week, that meant sourcing a few last elements for the installation, and working on a short film to promote the project. So a week of ordering books, composing music, and stitching a short film together. That’ll be out very shortly.
I also spent a day wrapping up Muncaster: decommissioning various services we no longer needed, and then spending the rest of the day analysing some data from the project. Nothing vastly complex, but useful to get a better picture of how people played with Hello Lamp Post, and also to be able to express more stories about the project to our partners.
And, finally, on Thursday, a short lunch about a brief piece of design work, now known as Hegdon: a few days of interaction design in the coming weeks, which will be a nice workout and change of pace
Week 48. Week 49 next: time to launch new work.
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.
29 July 2013
Weeknotes for Week 41 will be brief, I think, if only because they’re late.
Lots of little bits this week. My main work for myself this week was pushing ahead on Sore; by the end of the week, I had an end-to-end demo video to send to my collaborator and producer. I like video for this simply because it’s a hardware project; ultimately, there should be no visible computation, so being able to show it working end-to-end without manual intervention is exciting progress. Really satisfying work.
I did a short internal talk on Wednesday evening for a company, so a few days were spent rejigging it for the specific new audience. That seemed to go down well.
There was a short piece of work to slowly decommission Concert Club, which has reached the end of its prototype period. It was nice to take the time to wind something down properly: disabling long-running processes, scaling back server resources, leaving it up as an archive. Nothing’s worse than removing a site you worked on from the face of the world, and having to rely on archive.org to recover it.
I had another mentoring session with Michael, the film producer I’m working with through CreateInnovate. Good to catch up, and to see how last month’s session had percolated and come to fruition.
And, on Tuesday, I spent a day with PAN, working over some of the snaglist on Hello Lamppost and thinking a little about the future.
I have one of this weeks every couple of months: lots of little fragments, winding some things down, building others up; it feels bitty at the time, but lots of things move on as a result. It’s the kind of week that makes weeknotes really valuable.
22 July 2013
Just before Week 40 began, we’d launched Hello Lampppost. The first week after a project launch is always a hard time to schedule: what problems are going to emerge in production – what are the issues of scale you might not have predicted.
By and large, though, it was a quiet week on Muncaster: a few minor fixes here and there, some performance tweaks, but, touch wood, no crises, which gave me some space to take it easy after Week 39’s exertions.
Not too easy, though – the thoughts at the back of my head that had been pushed to the back because of project-launch were now demanding their own space. That led to pushing several ideas forward:
- noticeable progress on Sore: rigging up all the hardware and proving the CPU doesn’t fall over; building a little “power distribution” board so I can power high current devices and a Raspberry Pi off a single PSU; getting all the necessary libraries in place. This felt like a big leap forward for a single afternoon
- Hacking together a very early prototype of Watchcroft, a game I’m tinkering with for my own sake. A few hours’ work led to a prototype controller (built out of a Freescale FRDM board pretending to be a HID joystick) and a prototype of the game mechanic in Unity. It’s very much not a game yet, but the thing I hoped would be entertaining is, and I think there’s a game to be made out of it. Not for a while though – I think I’m putting this on hold until late September, when a lot more client work is out of the way.
- A small piece of maintenance work on Firle: fixing outdate libraries, adding a piece of functionality that’d been needed for a while, and restoring functionality the broke in library updates. This ended up necessitating some time in Browerstack, which is becoing pretty indispensible (and saves me filling up my SSD with VMs).
So, despite intending to have a quiet, cooling-down week, I ended up doing quite a bit; not as easy to turn my brain off as I’d perhaps hoped, but moved lots of little things forward, and nice to think about other project alongside Hello Lamp Post again. Next week moves into more concerted prototyping/alpha on Sore, and a talk for a client.
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.