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Post #1379

Week 248

What the studio looks like at almost 4pm on Friday 12 March:

Campbell is in the small room at the end, working on editorial layouts and user interface assets, both part of the El Morro project.

Also in the small room is Timo. He’s working on editorial in InDesign and how to encode this in XML, in the file format we’ve created. Sitting with him is Lei, who is working on a software renderer which does layout. The pages don’t look quite right and we’re chasing towards a demo app, so Lei and Timo are working together to iron out bugs in both the renderer and the XML.

Nick is crouched by their desk. He and Lei are talking about a bug in the way XML is imported into the database that the renderer uses. This is all for El Morro.

In the larger room, Matt B has his headphones in and is working on page designs for Ashdown. Yesterday evening, he, Tom and I drew out a system for how the main Ashdown webpage should behave, in great detail. Using this detailed system, Matt is able to work on the visual and information design.

Tom would usually be working on Ashdown too, but today he’s busy with the Authoring Tool for El Morro. Eventually this tool will create the XML for El Morro automatically from InDesign, so Timo doesn’t have to do it by hand, but not yet: that’s what Tom is working on.

James has a day off. Phil and Tom T, who have worked with us for odd days recently, are away. Kari is with us Tuesdays and Thursdays so she’s not here today. The room feels a little empty. Sparse not airy.

Jack and Matt J went out a little before noon for a meeting. They’re still out.

What the studio looks like at 8.30pm, same day:

Campbell and Timo are in the smaller room. Matt J is at his desk in the main room, working on a project plan. Jack bought us all pizza and left just recently. Nick and Lei are working still. I feel guilty that we’re all still here. My responsibility to the people is that we all should have left by now; to the project, it’s that we wind up with a great looking build tonight. I’m going to stand up now, and insist that we start bringing this thing in to land.

It’s 1am.

We all left a little before midnight. My guilty feelings got washed away once I saw how pretty it’d become, what we’re making. I’m up still, at home now, chewing over the day.

I chew over a lot of things, late at night.

I read yesterday about the origin of Windows and on page 3 of the article, Tandy Trower describes the four jobs in designing Windows 3.0: hands-on interface design; establishing usability testing processes; creating guidelines; prototyping. And so I think about the systems around design that are necessary for organisational change and success, and the necessity of explaining them in break-downs like this.

And this lunchtime I read Warren Buffett’s letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. which is his thing, you know, 98% of his fortune, and it has crispy clarity and deep insight, so I think about that.

I’m thinking about some glum, or concerned, or tense faces I’ve glimpsed at any given moment in the studio over the week, what the related factors are or were, and what I can do. Happy ones too, and what’s working well. There’s a project that is proving tough despite its apparent simplicity, and I’m trying to put my finger on why. I’m thinking about how intellectual property functions, and the legal and descriptive frameworks by which it becomes a thing you can sell or license. I’m thinking pretty hard about Jack and Matt J’s responses to a couple different project proposals, because they have senses of smell I don’t have, and so I’m spending time interpreting their reactions in order to come to my own opinions. A quarter hour ago, I had a browser window open to check something to do with cash-flow that won’t matter for another two months. I’m thinking about how to increase delegation more deliberately, and how to balance that with cohesion in studio output.

Look: it’s been a great week. Exciting, actually, now I think about it, but it’s late and late makes me reflective. I have no worries about the studio. But I wanted to get at how mentally occupying this kind of enterprise is. I am certain that Jack nor Matt think any less about the studio than this. (I know it; every morning they effortlessly resolve concerns I’d only just realised I had.) Nor anyone who writes weeknotes.

Meanwhile one of the old standards has come on iTunes. Andy Williams, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. When I was a very little one, my dad used to sing this at bedtime. I wonder if my sister remembers. There’s a bird outside that thinks it’s morning and is singing.

Good night.

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