20 January 2019
Let’s do this again.
…were Christmas. No news, as a result.
… and we’re back in the saddle.
First up: prepping and delivering a second weekend of teaching on Hyper Island MA. I like the second weekend; the students are deep into the brief, we can deliver some more challenging (and unusual) talks and content, and push them a little more in general. Again, loads of great questions and discussions; some great guests, with a workshop from Ultra IOT and a talk from Wesley; and then, at the end, some excellent presentations. So pleased to see how they’d all developed. Every project had at least one straight up “quiet-round-of-applause” from me: some new insight, or technique for presenting material I’d not seen, or an idea for interaction. It was highly satisfying, and I was wiped out by the end of the three intensive days (after a full week of client work).
Somewhere in week 314, before I went back into work proper, I wrapped up the work necessary to launch 16n – an abstract music controller. It’s sixteen faders, that output information in a variety of ways, and it’s up to musicians as to how to integrate it into their setups. Here, have a picture:
Rather than shipping this as a product, I’ve instead made the entire thing open source. The electronics schematics and board designs are CC-BY-SA, as are the panel designs; the firmware is MIT licensed. It means I can still bring them to market in a way, if I’d like, in due course – but for now, the community that’s eager to have them (because this has been in progress for a long while) can get on with making their own. Or, indeed, making them for each other; it’s very much fanufacture made flesh. There’s certainly been a nicely positive response so far – and we made Mouser sell out of the faders, for the time being…
Around that, I’ve been settling into the gig at Bulb Labs: making contacts, meeting people, and thinking by writing and listening. The team is coming together, as are the inklings of the first few projects there. It’s going to be a difficult gig to write about even in my slightly obtuse manner, but perhaps there’ll be a way into it in due course. We’ll make the path by writing, so to speak.
Hello, 2019. Let’s get on with this.
21 December 2018
The final two working weeks of the year. In the midst of kicking off at Bulb, wrapping up at CaptionHub, and Christmas party season… I got a truly horrendous cold and spent several days in bed. Yuck.
So there’s not a vast amount to report. My personal Trello account tells me I spent much of those two weeks when not at clients mainly just doing admin. Otherwise, I tried to wrap up one last feature at CaptionHub – as well as a bit of troubleshooting around STL file formats – and started getting my handle on the role at Bulb in the few days I had there. So far, there’s been a lot to take in, but the little team in Labs is great, and I’m looking forward to getting underway a little more next year.
When I wondered why I was ill, it turned out that moving house, a long weekend of teaching, and a new gig all at once is a lot to take on board, and I think my body just said ‘no’. Endoftermitis is real: it’s like technical debt for your body, where you can no longer stave things off and it all comes crashing down. The only thing to do is to roll with it: accept you don’t want to get colleagues ill, do what you need to recover, remember that’s what the rainy-day funds are precisely for.
A quieter end to the year than perhaps I envisaged, then, but an end nontheless. Next up: two weeks out of the studio and the office, resting up, getting ready for 2019. And then we start again.
02 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 is 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.
29 October 2018
Lots of time without weeknotes. Oops. But: lots has been going on.
Notably, Lambrigg wrapped up. The final weeks weren’t too crunchy, thankfully: just somesome busy, intense days to get to the finish line. In the final week we designed and wrote a new demo, re-coded both demos so that they could be more easily shared with colleagues, finalised two hardware prototypes, wrote our report and presentation deck, and got the whole thing into a shippable state. Phew.
It’s been a really nice shape of project. A research and development piece beginning – about three months ago – with background research, interviews, design reporting, a bit of strategy, and helping colleagues in the management team develop strategy further. Then, we moved into prototyping some preferred approaches in a manner that could be taken further if needed.
Across the project, I’ve conducted research interviews, done desk research into design and technology, explored possible technical approaches, designed some game prototypes, built software and firmware in Python, Ruby, Java/Processing, and C++. I’ve designed, fabricated and built up two different custom circuit boards that interface with one another, and built end-to-end prototypes that interface with a computer. I’ve produced CAD models for those boards for Tim to design around. By the end, we had turned all that into coherent physical prototypes with working demos.
That feels like a lot. Meaty work.
And then, I promptly got ill with endoftermitis: the come-down after pushing perhaps a wee bit hard. So I was off for a bit, and I think that threw my weeknotes muscle.
Since then, I’ve been working on a few things.
Firstly, decommissioning Holmfell – Erica Scourti’s _Empathy Deck_ – now that the Twitter API no longer supports, well, doing anything fun. We’ve said goodbye, and now we’re working out how best to properly archive a web project. That’s entailed not just taking dumps, but writing documentation for future users on what they are and how to interact with them. For instance, I’ve been turning some of the most significant Postgres tables into CSV – after all, as I say a lot, Excel is the prototyping tool everybody has on their desk, so it’s good to leave things in a state that doesn’t require me.
It also turns out the project generated around 17gb of images in its lifespan, so I’ve been trying to archive that in the most space- and time-efficient way possible. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that a little rsync goes a long way.
Over on Selworthy, we’ve been thinking a bit about infrastructure and operations, and choosing our next focus for incremental, ongoing improvement. I’ve also been prototyping some new interactions, which are going to be much easier to integrate with the existing front-end after the overhaul the team made to our front-end stack more recently.
I’ve started the work around preparing for this year’s Hyper Island Digital Technologies module. This year, it’s more of an incremental overhaul on last year, but it’s been good to start thinking about the structure and narrative of the module up-front. There’ll be more work on that in the weeks to come!
I’ve started conversations about a small R&D project called Sharphaw, which ties together some of my experience and expertise to help a company explore taking the objects they make and connecting them to internet services – a bit of IOT prototyping, a bit of thinking about service design, and fabricating a few things.
And, over on the music technology side: a small production run of kits for Thonk, and wrapping up an open-source community project I’ve been working on for a good while. I’m hoping to release that in week 306!
Phew. That’s a lot. Let’s try to do this more often.