• Week 73

    10 March 2014

    A busy week – not in the sense of absolute volume, but certainly in terms of the number of different things I was working on.

    On Friday I was in Coventry for the Random String symposium. I think the talk went down alright, and I had a lot of interesting conversations with artists and practitioners. I’ll try to get it online soon: it’s a talk called Technology as an Artist’s Material, and it takes a slightly different slant on some of the ‘materials’ based talks I’ve done in a while.

    Quite a bit of the week was spent working on that. However, I also fitted in a day of meetings for Haddington/Contributoria, about how we were going to get to 1.0, planning the next few months work, and seeing what else was on the horizon. Good to have the whole team in the same place, it always leads to strong conversations.

    I also spent a day on Seager, making the website for the connected-object degrade gracefully from Websockets to AJAX-based long polling when Websockets weren’t available. It’s easy to do this when you’re testing if the browser supports Websockets. The more important use case, though, is when a browser supports websockets but (for whatever reason) they’re not being transmitted correctly – for instance, if an HTTP proxy is blocking them. It was a reasonably day of fine-grained code and testing, but the end result was not just the correct, seamless functionality; it was also better-abstracted code that more clearly expressed all of the site’s functionality. Very worthwhile.

    A busy week. Week 74 is more focused, and less dependent on the muse sticking around long enough to write 30 minutes of flowing lecture. Onwards!

  • Week 67

    25 January 2014

    Busy, scattered week, this.

    Much of it was taken up with Botley – another productive meeting to work out where to devote the team’s energies, and then a day and a half of poking and prodding an API, building a tiny prototype to share some thinking with the team. Not a product in the slightest, just some sketching-in-code to work out the limits of systems and help us design them. I hope it’ll be useful to the team.

    Not much on Seager to report – just a few last teething troubles to tidy up.

    I had a fascinating meeting on Wednesday, which has led to a tiny proposal, for a project I’m calling Butser. It’s for a lovely client, with a really interesting problem, and could turn out to be a nice meaty-code-problem to keep me busy if it comes off. For now, though, we’re aiming to start small if we can get the funding. Definitely worth the time meeting up.

    On Thursday, I went to a workshop organised by CDEC around what a Connected Products Studio – something they have a mind to creating in London – might entail. A rich, involved day, with a great room of expertise from small companies and technologists through to funders and facilitators; many thanks to Alex for organising and facilitating the programme.

    And then, on Friday, I moved studio. I’ve been renting a desk from Makielab since I went freelance, and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. But needs change, and so I’ve moved into PAN’s studio space. They’ve been good friends for a while, and have a space really suited to the shape a bunch of my practice is taking. I’m still in East London, of course.

    A busy week and a bunch of moving. Week 68 I’m taking off – heading to the hills and having a bit of a retreat. I’ll be back for Week 69.

  • Week 66

    17 January 2014

    Pulled in lots of directions this week:

    • A day wrapping up the month’s work on Contributoria/Haddington, laying the foundations for Dan’s work for the rest of the month.
    • Paying my tax bill.
    • Various meetings and lunches with friends, about interactive theatre and games culture, which were a nice tickle for the brain.
    • Wrapping up a final set of bugfixes on Seager, which led to the startling discovery that 3G connectivity providers may will strip websockets from port 80 because of their lousy proxies – we lost some time to that one.
    • A day of workshopping for the BBC on a project that I’m calling Botley for my references.

    Fun, though: two concrete days at either end, and lots of little bits in the middle, tidying up and poking some other bits of technology in my spare time. One potential project has fallen through for the time being, though thankfully this isn’t too much of an issue; a couple of speaking engagements have emerged. Lots of focuses, then, but a solid week. One more like that, and then I’m heading to the hills for a week’s R&R.

  • Week 65

    12 January 2014

    The majority of the week was spent working on Contributoria (Haddington), following its launch the week before. No major errors to fix, but lots of features to roll out ASAP. It’s very much an “early” beta (rather than a perpetual beta) and we’d like to get the features people are expecting into the product as swiftly as we can; I’m hoping by February/March I’ll be focusing more on polishing and plussing, than on crawling through the critical backlog.

    So that meant building core functionality, helping Dan set up outbound email, fettling servers, and getting our deployment tools polished and working for all of us. That went smoothly, and we’re now delivering at a nice pace.

    A Monday spent at the Guardian offices also meant that we could show the product off in an editorial meeting, and we had a decent response – some sharp questions and good feedback. At this stage, almost all feedback is helpful, and it was nice to get a response direct from all the journalists on tap in those offices.

    I also spent a little of the week debugging some issues with Seager, primarily around latency. Connected object need a degree of polish in their mere implementation to file off rough edges, even in this early prototype: how often they report to the network, what first configuration feels like. Lots of that’s been ironed out, and I’m going to talk more to the Bergcloud team next week about my experiences with the project.

    And of course, handling email and inquiries about the future – and lining ducks up for the tax payment deadline.

  • Weeks 63/64

    4 January 2014

    Very quiet over the Christmas break.

    That meant there was time to write this year’s Yearnotes, which put a lot into focus, and reminded me how much to be proud of this year there was. If you missed them over the holiday period, they’re probably worth your time.

    On the first of January, Contributoria went live. This is the project I’ve been referring to as Haddington. I’ve written more about it here; suffice to say, it’s early days, and whilst I’m not hugely instrumental in the work, I’ll be continuing to lend a hand for a little longer – tightening various screws around the place. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

    To that end, I spent the 2nd diving back into the project. On the 3rd, I largely wrapped up the work on Seager – the connected object prototype – and shipped it off to the client to see how it suits them.

    Week 65 is when we begin again in anger: a few meetings, and a whole week on Haddington/Contributoria. Onwards, into 2014!

  • Week 62

    20 December 2013

    Last working week of the year.

    Two days on Haddington, tightening a lot of screws and getting ready for January’s launch. I’ll have more to say about that in the New Year, I’m sure.

    A meeting on Tuesday about a potential arts project. Likely I won’t be able to take it – but still worth spending an hour to help potential clients understand their problem better. Even if it doesn’t make my brief better, it will help somebody else’s, so it’s worth my time.

    Seager has had a bit more work: producing a first draft of the documentation, making the web experience a bit smoother, tidying some rough edges. It’ll wrap up early in the new year.

    And on Tuesday, a copy of Maker World arrived with a feature on the Literary Operator. Really proud of this – it’s came out well, and I’m glad it’s a project people respond to so well.

    A few other things happened that I can’t really talk about until 2014, but it was a very good week to end the year with.

    Today, I’m closing up shop until 2014, when the year begins in earnest – some consultancy, the public launch of Haddington, and for me, some time off and personal work, I think. I’ll speak more about all that soon.

    Next on the list: writing Yearnotes, on the first 15 months of self-employment. They might arrive next week.

  • Week 61

    15 December 2013

    Most of Week 61 was spent on Haddington. Monday was spent onsite with the rest of the team, finalising the plan for the next few weeks, and building a few features that required some collaboration. The rest of the weeks was spent polishing of templates and interactions.

    On Tuesday, I spoke about Cities As Platforms at Wearable Futures, which seemed to go down well – and the rest of the conference looked super-interesting. It was a shame I couldn’t stay longer, but Haddington called.

    In around that, I fitted a tad of Seager in around the cracks, pushing forward on implementation, and bringing it close to an end-to-end prototype.

    Next week’s the last week in the studio until 2014; I’m going to be working pretty much til the end of the week, focusing on Haddington and Seager.

  • Week 60

    9 December 2013

    Lots of things happening this week.

    Primarily, a bulk of work delivering pages and functionality for Haddington. That took up most of the first half of the week. Work on this paused a little whilst I waited for the back-end code to move ahead, at which point it’d become clearer what front-end work was a next priority.

    In the time that opened up, several new pieces of potential work emerged and began to be planned:

    • Claife, a pitch for some research funding into connected objects; I’d be acting as a technical advisor and building out some of the functionality, as well as assisting in the design, if that comes to fruition.
    • Botley, which will likely begin as some design workshops in the new year, before possibly turning into interaction or functional prototypes – we’re going to play things by ear. But for now, some workshops with a diverse group, looking at media products.
    • Seager, a tiny project: helping an in-house R&D team at a company prototype a connected object.

    Seager is already underway, and is proving to be as exciting as it is enjoyable. I spent some spare hours on Friday pulling together various strands with a breadboard of components, a bunch of Ruby and just enough C; progress came surprisingly fast. Really good fiero.

    I also wrote my short talk for Wearable Futures: I’ll be speaking as part of the Wearable Cities strand, and talk a little about Cities as Platforms. That’s next Tuesday.

    A good week, then: lots of things moving forward and some super-interesting work on the horizon. Next week, when I’m not at Ravensbourne, back to Haddington in earnest.