Week 15

28 January 2013

A new location for weeknotes: I’ve overhauled http://tomarmitage.com and will use it as a professional portfolio and outlet (whilst continuing this site as my primary home and blog). To that end, weeknotes will get published there, and I’ll make sure I link to all developments from over here. But you might like to check it out.

To that end, here’s week 15.

Announcing “Hello, Lamp Post”

21 January 2013

News time! I’m very excited to announce that PAN Studio, in collaboration with myself and Gyorgyi Galik, have been awarded the Playable City Award from Watershed. Full details here.

Hello Lamp Post! invites you to tune in to the secret conversations of the city and communicate through lamp posts, bus stops, post boxes and other street furniture. Part game, part story, anyone will be able to play by texting in a unique code found on the city’s familiar street objects.

…except, of course, there’s a little more going on than that (although not how you might expect it).

It’s a hugely exciting opportunity. I’m particularly keen to see how the initial idea we’ve started from will develop and be honed as we design it, and work with the materials we have – which include both SMS and Bristol itself.

And, of course: it’s worth saying how flattering to be selected from such an excellent shortlist, full of peers and friends.

I’ll save writing any more about the design for the future – and, I hope, in a space with PAN and Gyorgy, where we can share our own insights into the project. Muncaster is go, then. Onwards!

Week 14

21 January 2013

A slow week, that livened up towards the end.

Early on, there were some meetings and phonecalls about Muncaster, which seemed to go well. I should be able to write more about that project soon. Various evening meetings pushed a few little tickles of ideas further forward, so will keep following up on them.

Thursday and Friday were spent working on Firle: a very last-minute project, building small content-managed maps for part of the BBC. Should be able to point at this soon. Though last-minute, and very brief, we managed to get to a really nice point with this: a sane, pleasant CMS; intuitive mapping integration with Cloudmade maps through Leaflet; a codebase that’s the right balance of “done proper” and “done on time”. And I got to get my head around a few new platforms. Despite initially implementing it in Cloudmade Web Maps, I ended up porting it to Leaflet, mainly for the better touchscreen support, but the Leaflet API turned out to be very pleasant. I built the backend out of ActiveAdmin, which turned out to be great. I was worried it’d be too dogmatic and not flexible enough, but in fact, it turned out to be the opposite: appropriately customisable, not in any way dogmatic, and nice and clear to build for.

The coming week holds: more news of Muncaster, more looking for options for things up to the end of February.

What I’m learning right now: managing the pipeline – as Sales on a Beermat calls it – has not proven to be a problem: it’s useful to have one, and I keep it up to date and push through it. The tough parts are keeping enough plates spinning at once should any one of them turn into a project. Brighstone was so close to the door but didn’t quite make it in January (though still might in the future); that threw a lot of my estimates and plans, but also threw my confidence a bit. So I’m wearing what Matt calls one’s learning smile and keeping busy, keeping learning, keeping pushing things through the pipeline.

  • "Now that we know some of the problems, how does Curiosity solve it? The answer is: it does not. It saddens me but the game does not even appear to have realized what the problem with the design might be. The cleverness in the execution seems to stop after realizing that transmitting all the blocks at one time is a bad idea. Instead of looking at this as a form of interesting engineering problem nobody thought anything at any point…" Ouch. Great analysis of the problem, depressing analysis of the implementation. You'd really have thought game developers building a game around these very issues would have thought they'd have been critical to solve. Hey-ho.
  • "‫قلب‬ is a simple, Scheme-like programming language that you code entirely in Arabic. It is an exploration of the impact of human culture on computer science, the role of tradition in software engineering, and the connection between natural and computer languages." Somebody asked me at Four Thought about non-English programming languages, and I had to explain there really weren't many/any. This is a nice counterpoint, though it's as much a statement as a practical tool, I guess. Still: it's a statement about the thing I explained to the audience member.
  • "It was like graduate school, art school, and business school all rolled into one and I feel ready to explore in some new directions. For the moment, that means catching up on things: sleep, books, hacking and design projects, exercise, regular blogging, and more. Soon, it will mean looking at new possibilities. For the moment, I don’t know what awaits me in the after but if you’re up for lunch I’m probably game." What a nine years, though. Well done, Mike. I look forward to what happens next.

Links & notes for this month