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Blog posts from March 2013

Regenerations

Regeneration

The term regeneration (also known as renewal), in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, is a biological ability exhibited by Time Lords, a race of fictional humanoids originating on the planet Gallifrey. This process allows a Time Lord who is old or mortally wounded to undergo a transformation into a new physical form and a somewhat different personality.

Yesterday and today we’ve been moving into what will be the 7th BERG office (counting S&W’s premises and our secret spin-office, BERG#9) – it’s my fourth.

A bit like Doctor Who’s different incarnations, while still the same company, the spaces we’ve worked in have created very different feeling BERGs.

And, a bit like Doctor Who, I guess you have one incarnation that you always think is the best, or ‘yours’.

115 Bartholomew Road
Jack and Matt worked together first of all in 115 Bartholomew Road, Kentish Town. I visited their space a couple of times while they worked on projects for me and Chris Heathcote at Nokia.

schulze & webb in their technoshed

Untitled

Untitled

Hewett Street
Hewett St saw S&W move to London’s fashionable Shoreditch, just before Matt Biddulph jokingly dubbed it “Silicon Roundabout”. It saw the beginning of our habitual co-habiting with RIG and Newspaper Club. It was also where I started working more formally with Jack and Matt as an advisor while I spent most of my time on Dopplr.

hewett street

Tom Armitage became Employee#1…
First day

21 July (London 11)

It was also where Olinda was launched…
Olinda launch party, Schulze and Webb HQ

…and Matt crowdsourced a large amount of tiny cattle.
DSC_0003.NEF

“Sh*t Office”
I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but my joining full-time coincided with us moving to a tiny room, heated by a sunlamp, at the less-than-salubrious end of Scrutton Street. It was quickly dubbed “Sh*t Office”. Matt Brown joined us, as did Nick Ludlam.

Concentration

It was also where the regeneration of S&W into BERG took place…

Wall of BERG

Wall of BERG

The BRIG
We moved, with RIG to the other end of Scrutton Street, to a floor of a former printing company that quickly became known as The Brig.

10 October, 18.08

We had a bit more room to work and make, we were able to customise the space modestly and this space was really where BERG started to fire on all cylinders IMHO.

Shelving

23 June, 17.46

05 March, 17.47

05 July, 18.28

24 January, 16.32

11 October, 18.32

19 April, 10.18

18 April, 18.17

11 November, 11.24

23 June, 16.28

I think, like Tom Baker is “my” Doctor, this version of the BERG space feels like the one I’ll remember most fondly…
29 November, 17.07

Corsham St
After a couple of years in the BRIG we moved to our Corsham St space at the beginning of 2012. Much bigger than any of our previous studios, and we weren’t sharing with any of our friends.

A bit more grown-up perhaps, and to start-off with I felt a bit like we rattled-around in it, but as soon as the final push to launch Little Printer kicked in, the place started to hum.

18 January, 11.08

16 January, 11.49

18 January, 11.09

24 January, 12.57

Neil Usher

It also meant, that once LP was out in the world we had room to invite folks round for hackdays…

Hacking

Hack day and Dads' track

I think that’s when Corsham Street felt really alive, when it was full of friends and new acquaintances, all working really enthusiastically on something.

City Road
And now, BERG has just regenerated into it’s latest incarnation, an eyrie on the edge of “tech city” where BERG Cloud can be taken to the next level!

We’ve got our friends from Newspaper Club back in digs with us, and it’s going to be interesting to see how this new, quite different, more cellular space influences the way BERG works.

Unpacking

CEO

Clock/Monolith

It’s a step that I won’t be around to see first-hand, as today’s my last day at BERG, and this is my last blog post.

It’s a bittersweet moment, to look back on four years of working with incredible people on awesome projects. I’ve been very lucky to be in each one of the rooms above.

We’re going back to Corsham St now, to have a leaving party – where I’ll raise a glass to the next regeneration of BERG…

Week 407

Monday was all packing, Today was all unpacking. Welcome to the new BERG, it’s still in a bit of a transitionary state.

still requiring a bit of assembly

In between all this commotion Andy and Neil are hard at work on Kachina but we didn’t get to have an All Hands today so can’t reliably report on everyone else.

This was my first week notes, hopefully I didn’t mess it up too much.

Final Friday links from Corsham Street

BERG

So we’re packing up and moving out, this is the last set of Friday links from Corsham Street. I’ll keep this simple.

- Knolling

- Toast

Super Mega Mega Toaster from Scott van Haastrecht on Vimeo.

- Naked gun iPhone attachments

- The Story of my app

- Cat on a Roomba / Cats on Roombas

- Awesome projection bike lights

- Seeing in circles

Seeing in circles from Oscar Lhermitte on Vimeo.

- Meshworms

- The Death of Laptops

- Wooden computers

- The sounds of algorithms

- Tube touch ins/outs

And finally – a few musical numbers that have been on the studio sound system to see you through the weekend -

Did the rounds months / years ago but Cyril Hahn’s remix of Destiny’s Child ‘Say my name’ is still very good

As is his remix of Mariah Carey (no really)

And finally because I make no attempt to hide that I love a bit of garage, NDREAD’s ‘About your love’ is a wicked little track.

Have a lovely weekend, we’ll see you next week from new BERG.

Week 406

It’s moving preparation week here, and the studio is dominated by a cheerfully coloured pile of packing crates, waiting for us to fill them with our accumulated possessions. This coming Tuesday, we’re packing up and moving to our new space across the other side of Old Street roundabout.

In amongst the preliminary packing and new space preparation, it’s business as usual. Andy, Neil and I have been working on Kachina, and as I write this we have some filming happening in the studio, documenting the development process and surfacing the hidden layers of work that go into finished products.

Jack and Joe are continuing their discussions and prototyping around physical interfaces. Joe also flew over to Belfast and ran a short workshop with design students on the University of Ulster’s MFA Multidisciplinary Design course.

Helen and Kari have been working out the studio move logistics, involving the moving company, insurance, locksmiths and all sorts, and Fraser has been working his usual magic with Little Printer customer service and outreach.

On to Little Printer. Alex and Alice have been working on the preparation and running of LP at the Design Museum for the Design of the Year 2013 exhibition. Adam has been putting the final touches to our new Push Publication API which we’ll making some exciting announcements about next week. Denise has also been working hard on the future direction of LP’s interface and interactions, as well as design work for Kachina.

Simon’s been spinning a number of plates, including helping with Kachina and the Design Museum work, scouting the Ideal Home Show and finalising handover plans for next week. Matt Jones has been working on the Hogum workshop plan, and lastly Matt Webb has been overseeing work with the accountants, and has a meeting diary so densely populated that it’s in danger of collapsing in on itself.

This was week 406!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I mentioned back in October that we’d fallen off the end of our business plan. Well-regarded consultancy, prototyping products with major clients? Tick. Our own products? Tick. So when we shipped Little Printer, I’m not kidding it was the oddest feeling – I felt like we were done.

Actually, we’ve just begun.

Since I got back from vacation mid January we’ve been working on a new business plan, one that takes us right into the idea of BERG Cloud as a platform. Over 2012, our consultancy focused more and more on connected products: In 2013, we’re actively prioritising collaborations that use and build our technology. In 2012, we shipped our first consumer product. Now, we’re working on on-ramps to the platform for everyone. Dev boards are in progress!

The network is the new electricity. Connecting products is the electrification of the 21st century. And we want to be a big part of that.

But announcements of our work in these areas are to come. Sadly, we have some other changes… Two of the team are moving on.

Matt Jones

Way back in 2005, when this place was still called Schulze & Webb Ltd, our first client was Nokia, our first project was Continuous Partial Attention, and the fella who hired us there was one Matt Jones. Then, in 2009, we joined forces. A little later the company became BERG, and we built the awesome, inventive, ambitious, fun, consultancy-and-product-hybrid that is the studio we have today.

BERG has loads to thank Matt for. The consultancy business is a reflection of his insights and practices, and a good part of our intellectual foundations also come from him — our abiding interest in computer vision, “be as smart as a puppy,” immaterials… And, personally, I simply love his presence in the room.

Circumstances change. Last year, Matt started a family and became a brilliant dad. And then he was approached about a terrific job that fits incredibly well with his plans for 2013 — I’ll let him say more about that elsewhere. Long story short, at the end of March, Matt Jones is off to New York City. We’ll miss him! But we’re not letting go entirely…

Matt’s keeping an involvement in the company, so we’ll still get the benefits – albeit less frequently – of his smarts, energy, and vision. So we can have that as consolation! We’ll continue to be fellow travellers.

Simon Pearson

Simon’s been with us for two years, initially as our very first project manager – his remit was to invent the “BERG way” of running projects – and over time he’s taken on involvement in pretty much every part of how the company functions: Sales, budgeting, ops, supply chain and fulfilment, and more. Latterly he’s been Head of Little Printer, and he’s steered our first product from factory-ready to factory gate, then onto prioritising and launching features with the team, bridging product and marketing.

Simon is creative and energetic — his first love is music, and he’s off for a new journey into that. We wish him the best of luck!

We can’t replace Simon, just like we can’t replace Matt. We’ll each take on part of their old jobs, but I know there will still be something left undone… And I think what we’ll find is that whoever we bring in will have their own uniqueness, and they’ll fill that gap but do much more besides, and we can’t guess what that’ll look like.

Rockets

The secret of the name BERG is that it’s an acronym: the British Experimental Rocket Group. I said once that our experimental rockets are our people and that I’m always proud to see what BERG alumni move onto and accomplish. My aspiration is that at BERG we learn to think big – to invent culture! – and one day we’ll have a PayPal Mafia all of our own.

So I’m proud, yes, of Matt Jones and Simon both, excited to see what they’ll do next, but it’s bittersweet because we’ll miss them!

I’m prouder still of what the team is creating here at BERG. There are always opportunities in change. Our 2013 strategy is a corner-turn, and we’ll be able to grow in new directions from this. We’re moving premises, too, at the end of March – to somewhere higher up, somewhere with carpets instead of concrete floors, somewhere quieter with double glazing, a place for making and building. So that’s a geographic accompaniment to the changes. It’s a new chapter for us.

Matt, Simon — I raise a glass to you both! Thank you for being with us on this journey, and all the best for your own new chapters!

Week 405

405: Method not allowed.

BERGs collection of objects -people, tools, the furniture, our new kettle…- is moving studio in two weeks, and whilst there are many things we’ll all miss about our current housing, the heating is not one of them. In the middle of another cold snap and we are all freezing. There are some other weird things about this building, yesterday something large and heavy fell onto the roof, it made quite a frightening noise but we have no idea what it was. The office meeting room has sprung a leak as has the window above Alex’s desk. One of the toilet windows has a mesh instead of glass making a trip in there something you really have to summon the courage for.

It was my birthday yesterday, Kari bought a cake and managed to fit 26 candles on it, which was actually quite alarming. Everybody sung happy birthday.

This is what working at BERG is like, celebrations and leaky windows.

Work with Kachina continues. Simon, Mark, Nick, Neil (Usher usher usher), Andy, Matt Jones and Denise are all interacting with it in various ways. Bringing their own special sauce to the table.

Nick is looking quite French these days, I think it’s a new scarf and the fact that the wind is giving his hair considerable volume. He is working on our BERG Cloud developer borad, which will bring BERG Cloud to new products.

Adam is looking down the wrong end of the telescope, implementing an OAuth provider for a new version of the BERG Cloud publications API which publishers will be able to push to. I have been involved in this work as well, roleplaying the developer of such a publication.

Joe is working on Kemp. Tomorrow he is giving a two hour workshop on skecthing and thinking at the RCA with service design students.

Alex is working on an installation for the Design Museum, which Little Printer will be at. He is also finishing a revision of the design for BERG Cloud remote.

This Thursday is BERG Cloud newsletter day, so Fraser is pulling together content for that. I’m always surprised how much changes in a fortnight around here, more than you could put in a news letter, for sure. If you want to subscribe to the mail out, you may do so here: http://bergcloud.com/littleprinter/

Kari is planning The Big Move. Doggedly tracking down the people in charge of our new building and demanding answers to hard hitting questions like “Where do we take the bins out to?” and “how do we get our post?”.

Andy is chasing up a the colour additive for Little Printer, as with every part of a supply chain, hussleing is required.

Mark is looking at the way businesses can interact with BERG Cloud.

Matt Webb is in meetings. He is also ████████████ and █████████ ███████ ███████.

I’m finishing off a publication that has been in the making since about June last year, more about that in the news letter (hint hint). I’m also doing other things: documentation and tooling for v2 of the publications API, keeping the number of emails flagged in my inbox down at 0, writing the software for the Design Museum installation, and simplifying the publication submission steps for developers.

Jack is on a baby retreat. Presumably for his children. Helen is looking after a sick person but will be back tomorrow.

Friday links: Old Stuff vs. The Future edition

So what images, videos and links have been whizzing round the BERG studio this week?

Simon shared this article about the philosophy of human extinction. I’ve only read the first third so far, but am finding it quite a fascinating read. The extinction of humanity isn’t a topic I think about very often.

A topic I think about even less is automobile design, but I immensely enjoyed this interview with former BMW head designer Chris Bangle, sent to us by Matt Jones. Jones pulled out this quote:

Probably 25 years from now the critical issue in car design will not be: “electrification yes or no”, but “do the cars drive by themselves or not?”

Timo pointed us to gifpaint.com. There’s a good (?) way to waste time on a Friday afternoon.

Speaking of gifs, Joe sent us the link to this animated gif of a vintage Pioneer CT-F 1250 tape deck.

Joe was the king of “old stuff” links this week. He also sent us these two videos:

(More on that one here. Unlike Joe, I’m actually old enough to remember seeing that on Sesame Street.)

Matt Webb pointed us to Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling.

Nick shared Friend of BERG Dan Catt’s write-up of Diesel’s Days to Live Project which also involved Friend of BERG James Bridle. Here’s the direct link to the Days to Live project if you haven’t given that a go yet.

Last one this week: Simon, one of our resident musicians, sent us a link to this video of a Pendulum Choir. I just kept thinking about how they must have really strong neck muscles. (More on the project here.)

Have a good weekend!

Week 404

The temptation to leave this post blank, or not write it at all, was overwhelming this week – given the obvious HTTP status gag, but I couldn’t bring myself to.

Sunny All-Hands

Last Saturday we had our second Little Printer Hack Day, and although the kettle blew up 10 minutes prior to folks arriving, we are enormously thrilled with how successful the day was and how many good ideas came out of it. Alice wrote about it in lots more detail over on the BERG Cloud blog.

This week sees Andy at the soldering bench for project Kachina, making accidentally tuneful motors and strange hamster noises, whilst Neil makes sketches and models out of foam board. Nick, as usual, is helping make sure the digital nervous system that connects all the moving parts works seamlessly. They are a good team.

Jack has been helping Joe, who is creating a social network of all the apps and hardware on his desk, making everything talk to everything, some for the first time, and the result is called Kemp (not Ross, although there are some similarities…). In fact, everyone’s gone a bit multi-disciplinary this week. Jack even joined github.

Little Printer is stateside at SxSW as part of Hackney House Austin - so if you’re lucky enough to be there then do swing by to say hello. Back in London, work in the LP team continues on a chunk of new technical functionality, readying new shop additions and co-ordinating a couple of upcoming exhibition appearances.

Matt Webb and Mark have a busy week having various meetings in various places, like electrons – you know they’re there and feel their influence, but not quite sure where.

Matt Jones is in the middle of a big piece of writing about Scrobblers, and just brought some Revels in for us all. I hope I don’t get a coffee one.

Friday Links

Yo, whassup?

My rhymes blow your mind and you think it’s tyrannical
If a rapper tries to step I’m gonna get puritanical
Flow so radical, make the fellas all company
My rhyme profile makes the ladies accompany
If you can’t handle this then you’re nothing but a diner
Sweeter than molasses, and stronger than a Shriner…

/drops the mic

Anyway. Enough about me. More about Friday links.
First up Alex shared the RapBot, a freestyle 80s battle rap generator (via BERG friend Ben Bashford). It works really well. And talking of both Ben and autogenerated text, I’m still enjoying Robot Bashford on Twitter.

Alex also shared a link to this animated gif of crowds leaving Wembley Stadium:

You have to watch it right to the end, when all the people are gone… (A little Friday humour for you there).

Simon reminded us that the Bristol Maker Faire is on 23rd March. and Fraser shared a link to the Kinetica Art Fair which has just opened in London.

Matt Jones (via Gene Becker & Nicolas Nova on twitter) sent us this video, showing stabilisation for spinning cameras:

And Andy pointed us at this video, containing a bike, a man and a very nice cat:

Matt Jones also mentioned the new Google+ Sign in, which is outlined on their developer blog.

And I think that’s it for now. If you’re still looking for something to read, earlier this week MJ posted a summary of some work we completed last year, for Google Creative Lab. It’s one hell of a blog post and has more links than you could shake a stick at.

Have a great weekend.

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