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Blog posts from May 2012

Week 364

In 364 BC Chinese astronomer Gan De is reported to have spotted the largest moon in the Solar System, orbiting Jupiter. Almost two millennia later, German astronomer, Simon Marius, published ‘Mundus Iovialis’ in which he named the moon Ganymede. Marius took the name from a Greek myth in which a beautiful Trojan youth called Ganymede was carried off by Zeus to be the cupbearer for the Olympic gods. The people of Greece built a temple to honour Zeus in Olympia, said to be the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games. These games have survived in one form or another to this very day. This year, the site of the Olympic Stadium is Stratford, only 4.5 miles from the BERG studio. It is the 364th week since BERG’s original inception and now …

Matt Webb and Matt Jones are running three days of product invention workshops in a tiny room at the far end of the studio. Through a glass window I can see lots of Post It notes on walls and sketches on whiteboards, looks intriguing.

Vanessa is working on a string of project proposals and settling into studio life.

James Darling is ensuring that the LP infrastructure is robust enough scale and carrying out performance tests.

Denise was away on holiday and is now back, working on publications for Little Printer.

Alex is designing the Little Printer Shop. We’ve just seen the packaging that he worked on with Burgopak and it looks lovely!

Helen is working on progress reports and ensures that the everything keeps ticking along.

Simon, also away now back, is working on resourcing, planning and the next phase of a project for Uinta.

Alice is implementing Alex’s designs for the shop.

Andy is pushing on, elbow deep in electronic components and technical schema.

Nick is carrying out bridge board testing procedures while going very ‘low level’ on something to do with pins and electricity.

I wonder what Gan De would have made of it all.

Week 363

Week 363 or CCLXIII as the Romans would have noted it. The year 363 only became 363 after the introduction of Anno Domini in year 525, which was not widely used in Europe until the middle ages, so year 363 was not then what it is now! The number 363 is the sum of nine consecutive primes (23+29+31+37+41+43+47+53+59) and any subset of 363 is divisible by 3.

As this is my first weeknotes, I’ll introduce myself: I’m Vanessa. I’ve been working with BERG since March, so I’m the newest member of the team and still learning lots. I’m responsible for Business Development.

This week has seen the hottest day of the year so far at a sunny 27 degrees – summer has finally made an appearance. With such a jump in temperatures, we’ve all been melting in the studio as the sun pours through the skylights. But we’re not complaining…sunshine is always welcome!

Sinawava were in the studio this week for the last review before the final few weeks of the project. Joe has been working on this – and on CAD models and technical experiments with Luckybite along with preparing to set up the packaging designers and model makers for the next phase of the project.

Nick and Andy have been to Slovenia and have arrived back with gifts of Slovenian chorizo-type sausage once again. They’ve been testing prototypes and tiny components for Little Printer: tiny enough to inhale…apparently.

Alice has been working on the Miniseries platform for Little Printer and supplying us with very welcome ice-pops and iced-coffees to keep us cool.

James, who I haven’t seen yet this week, has been doing lots and lots of bits for Little Printer in Codebase and working a special demo for Matt Webb show off.

Little Printer has also been the main focus for both Denise and Alex. Denise has been working on publications and Alex has been working on wireframes and visuals for the shop.

Matt Webb has been busy with a number of sales meetings with some prospective new clients and meeting with Sinawava on Wednesday. He’s also been in meetings with the lawyers and been on a flip-flop buying mission.

Matt Jones has had a mostly sales-focused week apart from Wednesday with Sinawava visiting the studio. He was supposed to have Friday off but has turned into more of a work-from-home day instead of time off.

Jack has been working on sales, Sinawava and…the next BERG cloud product!

Simon is still away in sunny California and definitely missed, so we’ll be delighted to have him back in the studio next week when we can breath a sigh of relief!

I have been writing proposals for a number of really exciting new projects involving weird existing technologies. I’ve also been drafting phase 2 for an existing client, so the next few months should see some more really interesting projects in the studio.

Sunday Links

Well, inevitably after I gave the others loads of stick for not getting the weekly links out on a Friday, I don’t manage it either. Humble pie for brekkie on Monday when I see them all next.


Here’s what was flying around the studio e-mail list this week.

Alex found this 121-megapixel satellite photo of Earth

Denise pointed us at these lovely British birds made of Lego.

Andy caused much excitement (and used many exclamation marks in his email) when he announced there was a new Katamari Damacy soundtrack…

A slo-mo jumping (portly) cat!

James pointed to the interesting, elegant UI details used in the new iteration of the (already-rather-good) Soundcloud.

Take a look at the video here of a flying robot that swoops to perch on a human’s hand like a falcon. It gets incredible around a minute and thirty seconds in…

Andy pointed out this very interesting development in home automation and ‘domotics’ from a startup called “Electric Imp” as reported on Gizmodo:

Electric Imp came out of hiding today, announcing a line of Imp cards that can be installed on any electronic device to put it online and even control it. The little cards appear almost identical to standard SD cards, but have WiFi antennae and embedded processors. You can install them to existing devices using some of the circuit boards Imp sells, and the company is in talks with OEMs to get them Imp slots pre-installed on a range of products. Once installed, they connect to the Internet and Imp’s cloud-based software controls, allowing them to both be controlled remotely and work in conjunction with other connected devices.

One to watch perhaps.

Matt Webb pointed out this interesting company, who market themselves as a visual programming language for creating visualisations from complex streams of live data (for instance from sensor-laden nets of things…)

Andy pointed to who’s stated aim from their website is to ‘teach the machines to sing’ but making links into music…

James shared with the list, which does precisely what it says on the tin. Lots of very nice UI touches of the sort that lift a product or service to an extra level of consideration, commodity and delight.

And finally, as a nod to the biggest film of the year so far, and tribute to the recently-deceased illustrator/author, here’s how Maurice Sendak might have drawn the Avengers.

Have a great week!

Week 362

362 is 2 × 181, a Mertens function returns 0, and it’s both nontotient and noncototient. The 362 bus in London goes from Grange Hill (Whaa-dy Waa-waaaaaaa) to King George’s Hospital, which James Darling’s dad used to work nearby.


This week, James reports he is doing “boring but important things” on Little Printer‘s infrastructure. He has also been wearing some spectacular trousers.

Simon has left us for a well-earned couple of weeks away, driving through California, but up til then he’s been doing Little Printer planning – technical prioritisation, meeting lawyers and various people about manufacturing ramp-up. He’s also been working with Vanessa on handing over things, particularly around our new business processes before his holiday.

Andy’s been focussing on Little Printer too – preliminary EMC testing in Cambridge, bridge board prototypes, soldering and ordering… and sending things to Slovenia. He’s also been assembling a robot arm we bought ages ago at Maplin for fun in the evenings…

Matt Webb’s been working on sales mainly, had a couple of speaking gigs, and has been meeting lawyers about T&Cs for Little Printer. He’s deep into some of the ‘Dark Matter’ of selling physical consumer products globally. Interesting stuff…

Neurosis MindWave

He’s also been wearing a brainwave monitor… more about his experiments over at his ever-interesting

Nick’s working closely with Phil and Andy as always – wrapping up work on the BERG Cloud bridge, talking manufacturing considerations with Andy, and perfecting the OTA update routines with Phil amongst loads of other things.

Alice is finishing our “Miniseries” publishing platform for Little Printer, and working on some of the launch partner publications. Alex is working on some design considerations for the Bridge, and wireframing some of Little Printer’s web presence. Denise has been working on some forthcoming new business, which looks very promising and designing loads of stuff for LP’s user-experience.

Joe’s been working on project Sinawava – which is a consulting job that has loads of different aspects, all of which he’s leading magnificently. This week there’s been product design work, strategic roadmapping conversations, technical prototyping and some experience prototyping with a packaging consultancy, as well as designing app concepts for the project.

Eddie Shannon’s been in with us this week again, working with Joe on Sinawava and being very generous in his tea-making!

As for me, I’ve been supporting Eddie and Joe on Sinawava, helping MW with sales, trying to do some long-delayed blog post writing and wrapping-up Project Chuska.

Jack and Timo were in Stockholm at the beginning of the week, presenting the results of the first stage of our partnership with Ericsson’s UX lab to the wider research group there. We blogged about that project yesterday. I worked a little on it and had a tremendous time doing so! Nice to see it in the world.

Timo’s back in Norway now, finishing his PhD for the summer. He’ll still be working with us regularly on special projects and research while that wraps up. He is missed!

And finally… Jack has started designing BERG Cloud product #2… Vallecito!

BERG x Ericsson: ‘Joyful net work’ and Murmurations

Ericsson’s UX Lab have recently been doing some important and brave work around the Internet of Things. We have been particularly intrigued by their concept of using social networks as a model to understand complex networks.

This is smart, it builds on our innate familiarity with social networks, but also acts as a provocation for us to think differently about the internet of things. It also happens to cross over with many of the BERG’s interests including Little Printer, BERGCloud and very close to the ‘Products are people too‘ concept that has been guiding much of our work.

14 March, 17.46

So over the last few months BERG and Ericsson have been working in partnership to explore some practical and poetic approaches to networks and smart products. We have been developing concepts around the rituals and rhythms of life with connected things, and creating some visualisations based on network behaviours. Phase 1 of this project is complete, and although we can’t talk about the entire project, we thought it would be good to show some of our first sketches.

You can also read more about the collaboration from Ericsson’s perspective here.

We kicked off in a product invention workshop where some really strong themes emerged.

There are huge areas of network-ness, from the infrastructure to the protocols, from the packets to the little blinking lights on our routers, that are largely ‘dark matter‘: immaterial and invisible things that are often misunderstood, mythologised or ignored.

There are a few long-term efforts to uncover the physical infrastructure of our networks. Ericsson itself has long understood the need to both explain the technology of networks and their effects.

But – we mostly feel like the network is out of our control – tools to be able to satisfyingly grasp and optimise our own networks and connected products aren’t yet available to us. Working towards products, services and visualisations that make these things more legible and tangible is good!

Joyful (net)work: Zen Garden Router

2012-03-18 | 20-31-44

Inspired by Matt Jones’ idea of a ‘Zen garden router’ this video sketch focuses on the ongoing maintenance and ‘tuning’ of a domestic ecosystem of connected products, and the networks that connect them. We have modified a standard router with a screen on its top surface, to make network activity at various scales visible and actionable at the point at which it reaches the house. We’ve used a version of the beautiful ‘Toner’ maps by our friends at Stamen in the design.

This looks to metaphors of ‘joyful work’ that we engage with already domestically – either mechanisms or rituals that we find pleasurable or playful even if they are ‘work’. Here there are feedback mechanisms that produce more affect and pleasure – for instance the feedback involved in tuning a musical instrument, sound system or a radio. Gardening also seems to be a rich area for examination – where there is frequent work, but the sensual and systemic rewards are tangible.

Network Murmurations

Different network activity has vastly different qualities. This is an experiment using projection mapping to visualise network activity in the spaces that the network actually inhabits.

When loading a web page a bunch of packets travel over WiFi in a dense flock. While playing internet video packets move in a dense stream that persists as long as the video is playing. On the other end of the scale a Bluetooth mouse or a Zigbee light switch where tiny, discrete amounts of data flow infrequently. Then there are ‘collisions’ in the network flow or ‘turbulence’ created by competing devices such as microwaves or cordless phones.

We use as inspiration a ‘murmuration‘ of starlings, a beautiful natural phenomenon. In this visualisation the ‘murmuration’ flits between devices revealing the relationships and the patterns of network traffic in the studio. Although this sketch isn’t based on actual data on network traffic, it could be, and it seems that there is great scope in bringing more network activity to our attention, giving us a sense of its flows and patterns over time.

The network is part of our everyday lives. Seeing the network is the first step to understanding the network, acting on it, and gaining an everyday literacy in it. So what should it look like? These video sketches are part of our ongoing effort to find out – a glimpse of our first phase of research, there is more work in the pipeline that we hope to be able to talk about soon.

Thanks to the Ericsson’s UX Lab for being great R&D partners.

Week 361

It’s fast approaching the end of 361, arguably it’s passed already, but for this purpose I’ll stick with the ISO definition promoting Monday as the first day week.

A slightly shorter working week due to a Bank Holiday Monday in the UK, although the processes in motion around Little Printer don’t obey such things. It’s really a case of shovelling coal to keep the furnace burning as hot as possible!

So what’s been going on?

Matthew has been following up new leads, developing existing proposals and working with Helen and Simon as the year end figures start to be compiled. Matt Jones has returned from the US and brought us Hobo Bread from the Henry Ford Museum, this filled the studio with a amazing aroma of maple toasted walnuts and inspired James to bake his very own.

Jones has also been working with Joe on Sinawava drawing together the last few weeks worth of material across the different elements of the brief. We’ve enjoyed the company and exceptional handiwork of Eddie Shannon whose been further developing some of that work too.

Alex has been splitting time between Chuska and BERG Cloud, working with Jack and myself on graphics for the hardware.

Meanwhile Nick has been bouncing around the different levels (from user experience to chip level voltage transitions) of the BERG Cloud stack as we push ever closer, ably assisted by James and Alice chipping away at codebase items to do with partworks and scaling with delightful results.

Denise was ill for a bit, but it was grand to have her back, and to have Little Printers emitting her lovely proofs.

Jack’s been back in working on Chuska, LP and Bergcloud too.

I’ve been working quite closely with Simon around timings for LP and responding as quickly as possible to different suppliers at rather different times of the day.


(ps. 361 part of the Mian Chowla Sequence, apparently.)

Friday (Monday) links

A slightly delayed summary of what’s been floating around the BERG mailing list in the last week.

Matt Webb sent us Music for Programming:

A series of mixes intended for listening

while programming to aid concentration

and increase productivity (also compatible

with other activities).

In our ongoing email series entitled ‘HTML5 watch’, we found Suit up or Die Magazine and the browser version of ‘Cut the Rope‘.

Simon sent us the IBM Glass engine, which ‘enables deep navigation of the music of Philip Glass. Personal interests, associations, and impulses guide the listener through an expanding selection of over sixty Glass works.’

I really like this blog from the people behind the NYT graphics department, showing some of the data sketching behind their infographics.

Nick found this really nice prototype for a cursor based iPad keyboard.

This is what happens when you put a Kinect and a projector over a sandpit:

And finally, this has blown my mind this week. Araabmuzik plays live sets on Akai MPCs. There’s a lot of clips floating around of him making hiphop beats on the fly, but this dubstep clip is particularly good. Enjoy.


Week 360

360 is a highly composite number. It’s also a 5-smooth number, which sounds fantastic. It’s also a model of Ferrari which succeeded the 355 and was replaced by the F430.

It’s not as nice as the best Ferrari ever made though, which was the F40. F40 will never come up in weeknotes so here’s a crudely wedged in picture of what I consider to be automotive perfection.

But I digress. What are we up to this week?

Little Printer is consuming a lot of the office’s time at the moment. We’re just about to press the button on packaging manufacturing. Andy is working on Bridge boards and a million other things. Alice is working with Denise on API documentation and font testing, and meeting people to talk about publications. Nick and James are working on the claiming process, with lots of diagramming and whiteboarding and speaking. Matt Webb is meeting a lot of people and introducing Little Printer. It’s brilliant to see it all coming together.

There’s a lot of other stuff going on as well. Myself, Alice, James, Matt Jones and Jack are all working on wrapping up Chuska. Joe is back from his holiday and working on Sinawava – a few workshops, a bit of UI, and a bit of everything else. Helen and Simon are working their usual magic and making sure everything project and office related is running smoothly. Matt Jones is currently in the US and making me jealous with his pictures of nice looking beer. Jack is back in the office and flitting to and fro getting up to date with what’s been going on. Vanessa isn’t in today but is working a bit with Jack on sales stuff. Timo’s still away. I think we’re all looking forward to him coming back.

I think that’s it. It’s been fairly quiet today so far after a slightly radgy week last week (thank you Matt Webb for introducing me to that word, by the way). I like to end weeknotes on a musical edge though, and James did a sterling job yesterday of easing us into Monday with a nice bit of vintage Trojan Records amongst other things. See you on Friday for some Friday links.

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