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Blog posts from September 2012

Friday Links


It has been six weeks since the last Friday Links, I googled “friday links” and the top two hits were both BERG. It was then that the gravity of the situation hit me. Many people employ offices full of gap year arts students to write fluff pieces linking to their blog in order to gain the coveted top hit on Google. We got there just by tirelessly posting links every Friday. And then they just slipped away.

Well, this is the relaunch. Friday Links is Britney, and the last six weeks were it’s 2007. I’ll be fighting tooth and nail and bullying who I have to bully to get Friday links on the blog each week from now on.

This post has been all over Twitter and for good reason. In a lengthly but well worth reading essay Bret Victor responds to the Khan Academy’s online environment for learning to program. What results is a brilliant specification for an interactive environment for acquiring the mindset for coding. I hope somebody takes this design and runs with it.

I saw this via @fat on Twitter. Swiping though GIFs! I dare you not to lose 15 minutes just clicking and swiping.

So, do you want to see what the guy who lead the team that invented the Roomba, Rodney Brooks, is up to now? (The answer is a definitive ‘yes’). Since leaving his post as CTO of iRobot in 2008, Brooks has been working on a robot that he hopes will revitalise American manufacturing:

“My aspirations are high for this robot. This is the first mass-produced, slightly sentient humanoid robot”

Here’s the video:

Check out the full article

This article about the cave systems that run under Nottingham has made me want to visit Nottingham quite a lot:

Feel free to tweet about our exciting relaunch using the #fridaylinks hashtag.

Week 381

If the first 16 prime numbers created a club, the club would be called ‘381’, because that’s what they add up to. And naming clubs after numbers is cool.

I’m on weeknotes this week. Weeknotes is a funny one these days, as there’s so many people and so much going on that a) it turns into a long list and b) my notes from All Hands make no sense to me now. So I’m going to describe the studio as it is now.

Right now, I’m sitting in Alice’s After School Club. There are 10 Little Printer publishers sitting around the office dining table, comparing methods of printing greys.

We’ve now squeezed in the final pair of desks we’re going to fit in these offices. We have 24 now! That’s a lot. When I joined 18 months ago, we had 10. I’m interested in what has scaled and what hasn’t.

We still have All Hands every Tuesday, where we make sure everyone knows what everyone else is up to. We also have Friday Demos, where we show off that work in person. Both of these still work great, taking a bit longer, but definitely worth it. We moved Friday Demos to later in the day as we discovered that beer goes very well with it. It’s now the last thing we do in the week before heading to the pub with dizziness over just how much work gets done in this office every week.

One massive cultural shift for me has been the number of conversations in the office. With fewer of us, there was only ever one conversation that everyone was involved with. Now there are many.

We still have decentralised buying of snacks and milk. Today we had custard creams, chocolate digestives and salty pretzel sticks.

We currently get through 1,000 teabags a month.

Week 380

Oh how smug I felt to be second in this morning, spot on time, watching all the stragglers stumble in, rain pouring down their faces. How mighty was I, sitting smug and dry, on my new swivel desk chair. Self assured and warm, until the reminder from Simon (who was also on time, I might add) that indeed I had neglected the weeknotes that should have been posted last Tuesday. Last Tuesday, that’s pretty bad. So, tardiness, that is the topic this morning. Last week was a whole different affair…

Matt Webb spent lots of time out of the studio, at the Design Museum with other Matt and Jack on Wednesday, at a conference in Greece (ooh er) Thursday and Friday, and doing salesy / proposally things when not otherwise engaged.

Simon was doing millions of things (as ever), resourcing for upcoming projects, managing ones that are currently happening and making sure everything else was running smoothly.

New boy, Neil, was prototyping his mind off for Sinawava, he was also mumbling something about Movida but I didn’t catch what he said. (SPEAK UP, NEW BOY!)

Nick was finishing the bridge, planning when to visit Slovenia, working with James on final prep for the architecture, and both Alice and James on the prep for the Facebook hack day.

Fraser continued to blog his socks off and has been managing all our Little Printer queries like a silver-tongued machine.

Annika was finishing off her Pauite interviews and re-arranging post-its in a desperate attempt to make sense of the masses of information she’d extracted from people in previous weeks.

Pavel was aligning the tools and feel of the design for our Sinawava app. as well as doing some motion exploration (I saw him zooming around on his deskchair so I guess that comes under that).

Andy, like a dog with a hoover, was chasing plastics, testing electrostatic discharge, finding cork boards and ensuring certification for all the materials we’re using.

Alex was deep in Saguaro exploration as well as making sure all his Little Printer bits were looking ship shape before offing on his holiday to Spain. In a bizarre series of events it turns out Denise had exactly the same week lined up, but instead is off to Venice (alright for the design team eh?).

Jack was immersed in a pool of sales based endeavours and new product development, whilst taking some time to think over BERG’s design values.

Alice was rounding off publication bits and continuing to answer all tech related questions on the developer tools. She also spent some time on Vallecito and travelled to Oxford on Wednesday to point and laugh provide moral support for James, who was talking at a geek convention.

Beside the principal’s day out, Matt Jones was doing lots and lots of meetings and chatting to Pavel about the Sinawava app design.

Phil Gyford was working out how to display stuff in his one day in, before his one week off.

Matt Walton was thinking comparatively, resourcing and tidying up before his week off.

I was being ill and looking after an old dog (not a euphemism), as well as frantically making sure everything was up to date before Matt went off on his hols.


Week 379

This week feels a bit like the start of a new term for a few reasons:

1) I’ve just returned from a week-long holiday split between Sweden and Spain, which (as all good holidays should) felt much longer.
2) Lots of new projects are just underway [Lots of new people! Lots of new desks! A bit cosier for all of us!]
3) It’s early September, the days are shortening and folks are donning their workcoats again [How do we work the boiler again?]

The changing of the season and the slightly more crowded studio has predictably led to wildfire (which I’ve written about before), which is currently affecting Mr Joe Malia, Matt Jones and James Darling. Get well, all!

Fraser has been writing about Little Printer over on the BERG Cloud blog. Alice has been fervently working on Little Printer developer tools, which are looking pretty comprehensive now. Nick and Andy have been pouring over some more graphs about electronics, reports and I’ve been talking with publishers about producing publications.

Sinawava has seen action from Tom, Durrell, Pawel, Neil, Joe and Saar on many fronts including filming, electronics production and testing, Solidworks business, milling beautiful graphics, and today, music. Next week this particular project soup will be simmered down into its essence.

Annika has been talking to people far and wide for Paiute along with Jack.

Our phones have been buzzing all week with early prototypes for Saguaro which has been created between Alex, Denise, Matt Walton and Phil Gyford. That project is at its widest point, where the ideas start to merge and coalesce and come back together.

Otherwise the day-to-day activities of the studio continue – Matt Webb is working on a couple of proposals and attending a few events (he’s speaking at PSFK tomorrow morning where he’ll be making a little announcement about Little Printer). Helen has her hands in everything as usual, though this week I mean that quite literally as she’s been doing a bit of hand modelling in addition to keeping us all well behaved and well organised.

And that’s week 379.

Week 378

Week 378, and there have been a number of new faces in the studio. Paiute continues apace and Annika Bruysten has joined us in the studio to work on the research phase of that project, guided by Jones and Jack.

Everyone working on Saguaro (Alex, Matt Walton, Denise, Jones and Phil) has been down in the material exploration mines, doing quick sketch implementations of the various ideas which came out of the initial workshops. The rest of us in the studio have been participating as users, offering feedback on what’s working well, and what needs refinement. All very positive.

On to Little Printer. Alice is on holiday in Italy, but has been keeping in touch, as is now the tradition. James, Andy and I have been pushing forward on many fronts. Software stack improvements, optimisation and the next batch of boards to test for EMC.

Neil has been making us some clever programming jigs using the milling machine (and a lot of Dremelling) that will help us mass produce the physical circuit boards. We’ve also had some time for a bit of creative fun involving the iPhone camera. More details are up on the BERG Cloud blog. Speaking of the blog, Fraser and Helen are continuing to do great work in fielding the inquries coming in to Zendesk.

Pawel Pietryka has joined us for the next few months working on Sinewava and other projects, and has started off helping Joe with some slick graphic design work which we got to see at our Friday demos.

We just about made it through last week with Simon being away, and this week we’ve all breathed a huge sigh of relief as he’s back and doing his usual marvellous job keeping all of our projects running smoothly.

Lastly, Webb has been involved numerous meetings and a mountain of email, some relating to the business in general, and some specifically to current projects, all of them helping the company scale.

That was the week that was!

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