This website is now archived. To find out what BERG did next, go to

Blog posts tagged as 'weeknotes'

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!

Week 377

Week 377 in the studio. There were no week notes last week because nobody reminded Jack. The fault lies with all of us really, and we’re all feeling the consequence of our actions. Jack is well known for writing the best week notes.

Last week, to get you up to speed, saw a great reshuffle of desks. I am now so far away from Alex Javis, who I previously sat opposite, that I can barely see him. Joe’s eyebrows are also now out of my peripheral view. It’s a lot easier to concentrate on my screen down this end of the office, but I sure am going to miss those eyebrows. The reason for this shuffle is that we are taking some new people in to help with a couple of big projects. Our office has three new desks to accommodate all these bodies, which include Phil “Send me back to the BRIG” Gyford, Matt “another Matt” Walton, Saar “Phil’s not the only hardware guy in town” Drimer and Neil Usher (no relation to actual Usher (maybe some relation? (no, not really))).

Aside from acclimatising to our new desks this week goes like this:

Work on BERG Cloud and Little Printer continues, James Darling has done ALL HIS TICKETS. You go, James Darling. This week he embarks on another ‘too secret for week notes’ bit of BERG Cloud. Nick is doing more EMC work on the Bridge. He is also (in his spare time) hacking an absolutely sick iPhone prototype app for Little Printer. We have to wait for him to demo it but there are whispers that it is, as Jack would say, “AMAZEBALLS”. This week Matt Webb is stacking the papes, pressing the flesh, and other glamorous sounding ways of saying “having meetings”. He is also filling in for Simon as best he can whilst Simon is on holiday. I am working on developer tools for publishers and hackers who want to make Little Printer publications. Last week I delivered a Printer to Lanyrd so they can test their publication and have a go with our developer tools alpha. I’m also putting our render stack through it’s paces sending weird and wonderful publications that have been sent in by eager developers around the world. Last week I discovered that Little Printer can speak Hebrew, and at the weekend I tested the SVG->PNG element of Webkit with great results. If you’ve got an idea for a publication, here’s the address

Matt Jones, Joe Malia, Neil Usher (…usher …usher), Saar Drimer and Jack Schulze are working on various Sinawava projects. Tom and Durrell are making regular appearances at the studio for this work too. When BERG week notes jumps the shark, I hope someone has the wherewithal to give those guys a spin-off series. Matt Jones is also going to see some Paralympics on Friday. Saar is getting a lot of fun looking electrical components in the post. It’s good to see someone challenging Andy’s post monopoly finally.

Matt Jones and Jack are also working on an unpronounceable project. It’s spelt Paiute, if anyone would like to do an audioboo of how it’s actually pronounced here is my attempt: You can hear in my inflection that I am not at all sure that I’ve got it right.

Denise, Alex and Phil Gyford are doing design work for Saguaro. This involves a lot of experimenting with code and graphics. Denise and Alex are also doing a bit of design work for BERG Cloud.

Helen is doing numbers, contracts and payroll. She has great nail varnish on today, a ‘very now’ minty green that I reckon is probably made by Barry M. I read a great article about the cosmetics brand Barry M the other day. The guy that founded it is actually called Barry.

Andy is in India this week, he is communicating with us via a Little Printer on his desk though, much to my delight. Timo remains in the wilderness, advancing all of human knowledge with his PhD. Kari is still on maternity leave. I’m hoping she’ll swing by the studio soon, this weekend she was definitely at the Green Belt festival.

That’s your lot. Send me your Audioboos though, for the good of the studio.

Week 375

Oh I don’t know.

Something must have happened this week, right?

Week 374

“It would appear that ‘the future has taken root in the present.” (1) “The hardest thing is deciding what I should tell you and what not to.” (2)

Matthew, Jack and Matt J are out of the studio today to “take a deep breath of life and consider how it should be lived” (3) because “your focus determines your reality” (4) and these are the focus pullers of BERG.

Everyone else is seated around a long red table for our weekly catch-up, proclaiming what the week ahead will bring. “It’s funny how different things look, depending on where you sit.” (5)

Simon continues to project manage LP, Lamotte et al. with aplomb, deftly applying his “very particular set of skills; skills acquired over a very long career” (6) wherever required.

Alice harnesses “the world of the electron and the switch; the beauty of the baud” (7) to “prepare something special” (8) for users of LP. Particularly, dev tools and the shop. “It’s a beautiful system.” (9) “Cue the cheesy inspirational music.” (10)

On Monday and Tuesday James worked hard on LP. For the remainder of the week he’ll be at a festival of music in Winchester. For those of you that don’t know, Winchester “is a major party town” (11) and home to the “best party ever!” (12) I may be exaggerating but it does sound like it will be a good one.

Alex has taken the week off work to perform live at the festival. He DJ’s with a crew known as ‘Merk Chicken’, and “when (people) hear the music, (they) just can’t make their feet behave.” (13) Their sets are garnering an ardent following. Keep an eye out for them.

Anyway “let’s forget about the music right now”. (14) Elsewhere in the studio, Nick is exploring the LP code mines to see “just how deep the rabbit-hole goes” (15)

Andy is holding a soldering iron and performing intricate open-heart surgery on LP. “It’s kind of a delicate situation,” (16) I wouldn’t disturb him if I were you.

Denise is fine-tuning the print and pixels that form the LP launch material, preparing for the day that it will be “out there properly, in the public domain.” (17)

Helen is tending to the responsibilities associated with a studio manager in the second week of the month. She also watched live Olympic hockey this week, which sounds like tremendous fun, in spite of Team GB dramatic loss. Personally, “I’m much better at video hockey” (18) but I don’t think it qualifies as an official part of the worlds biggest sports festival. Yet.

Ruth and Phillip are doing heroic things with code, character animation and late nights. It all “sounds like hard work to me.” (19) Looking forward to the end-of-phase presentation on Friday.

Fraser is new to the studio! “Welcome to ‘The Program'” (20) Fraser. He’ll be writing copy for LP and manning the customer services desk after launch.

Nationally, eyeballs are fixed on the Olympics because “if you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.” (21) And everyone’s mood seems buoyant. “More please” (22)

“That’s the way it crumbles… cookie-wise.” (23)

The quotes peppering this update are taken from a totally arbitrary selection of movies. How many did you get?

1. Excalibur (1981)
2. The Terminator (1984)
3. Man of La Mancha (1972)
4. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
5. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
6. Taken (2008)
7. Hackers (1995)
8. The Illusionist (2006)
9. The Net (1995)
10. Bruce Almighty (2003)
11. Cabin Fever (2002)
12. 21 Jump Street (2012)
13. Grease (1978)
14. Kickboxer (1989)
15. The Matrix (1999)
16. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
17. In the Loop (2009)
18. Big (1988)
19. Clue (1985)
20. The Bourne Legacy (2012)
21. Grease (1978)
22. The Simpsons Movie (2007)
23. The Apartment (1960)

Week 373

Mid-week notes.

This is week 373 and the first week of the Olympics in London. The roads are a little clearer, public transport eerily quiet and everyone is cycling home like they’re Wiggo.

The studio is roughly 50/50 working on Lamotte and Little Printer. We have the enjoyable, continuing presence of folk over from the States to progress the technical aspects of Lamotte in parallel with the design being lead by Joe. Much tea is flowing.

Little Printer is an extraordinary, but non-competitive game of Downfall, with the red team working on the shop, BERG Cloud functionality and some behind the scenes delight. The green team are testing and identifying issues with hardware, tidying embedded software and cranking the supply chain handle. We have to make sure the right number of the right coloured balls fall in the right order. Right.

Jones has been out speaking this morning at Hackney House and is generally on call for Lamotte. He’s been passing large volumes of text to Jack, which Jack will be reciprocating.

After a fallow patch we’ve hit on a rich seam of birthdays featuring Jack and Denise. Helen, while juggling costs, LP budgets and general studio management has not shown any lack of determination when it comes to celebratory cup cakes. Exceptional.

Week 372

Without sounding a bit cheesy, I think we all missed the studio a lot when we were temporarily dislodged last week. It’s nice to be back.

So, week 372. Matt Jones seems to think I’ll work out a way of linking this to a car, but instead I’m going to link to a boat. The USS Williams (DE-372) was a destroyer escort acquired by the US during World War II – tasked to escort and protect ships in convoy.

We passed a massive Little Printer milestone early this week which had been at the forefront of Nick, Andy & Phil’s attention for a while. Work continues on everything else LP related though, mainly:

  • Denise managing the publications and making sure everything looks beautiful
  • Alice working wonders on the shop (and being very patient with me), so that we can sell them to people
  • Andy, Nick & Phil working on various LP Bridge bits, and Andy trying to navigate a bag of colour pellets which are somewhere in the world
  • I’m finishing a few print projects related to LP, and starting to work on the latest version of the mobile UI
  • Simon ran his super efficient planning meeting yesterday which was both terrifying and exciting, somehow
  • And Matt Webb is doing a bit of LP reach out.

James Darling was at a festival all weekend so I’m not sure what he’s doing. I hear rumours of there being quite a good Friday demo of it though.

A lot of other stuff is going on too. Joe is working with contractors (Eddie and Ruth) and clients making sure Lamotte is progressing smoothly, as well as revving up for the beginnings of Sinawava phase 2 later on in the week. Helen’s taken up key cutting as a hobby and is making sure we can both unlock and lock the doors on a daily basis, as well as planning studio space for the next few months with Simon. Matt Jones just had his hair cut, and is writing up a few things as well as planning for projects coming up. Jack wasn’t here for all hands on Tuesday but from what I know, he’s working on Vallecito and a few other bits.

Week 372, powered primarily by coke floats and desk fans.



Week 371

It’s currently Monday of Week 372, and I’m writing this regarding last week. So I’m late with these notes and I’ll not talk about what everyone’s been up to but instead I’ll talk about what’s in my head.

For one reason and another (I’ll tell you over a coffee, remind me) we were locked out of the studio for a couple days last week and had to variously bunk at the offices of generous friends in the neighbourhood, and work at home. Disruptive.

Over the week Matt Jones pointed me at a Wikipedia article about black start. A black start is (and let me quote from the article here) “the process of restoring a power station to operation without relying on the external electric power transmission network.”

Like, let’s say you have a hydroelectric plant. You need falling water to drive the turbines. But how do you open the sluices without a pre-existing supply of electricity?

Or let’s say it’s summer and the power grid has been down for a while. As soon as you boot it up, aircon will come on all over the city, a demand much greater than aircon switching on and off in the “steady state” situation, so suddenly you’re overloaded. Which means you need a rolling power-up.

“Black start” is full of considerations and strategies.

Like bootstraps: a battery starts a diesel generator, starts a hydro station, energises a subset of the grid, ignites a coal station, restarts the nuclear plant.

I was burgled recently, and between my partner and myself we had no house keys (all gone), no cash and no cards, and the knowledge somebody might come back. The boot-up was all from our phones. Use the phone to get an emergency credit card; scrabble around for pennies to get the bus to get the card; get cash, get a locksmith, get security on the house. Once stable and secure, get more cards, get replacement gear, etc.

You know, I remember reading this great book, Lion’s Commentary on UNIX, an annotated version of the source code of an early operating system. And in it you can see the very first moment of the sun, the code that runs to declare what is a “file” anyway, and what a “process” is, and then you can use those concepts to bootstrap the next level of complexity.

I find these deeply fascinating ideas!

Because we’re in our own black start right now.

Not just getting back into the studio last Friday morning, although that’s what made me draw the connection.

But we’re starting a design studio whose mission is to use the network to transform every existing product, and to invent new ones.

Little Printer is a part of that — bringing into the world something that isn’t quite a product, isn’t quite a service, and isn’t quite media. Something new. And meanwhile battling such immaterial forces as radio (don’t talk to me about radio frequency interference, although we’re past that particular corner now) and risk/finance/law (which turns out to be a hideously complex part of setting up the supply chain and sales).

Also the consultancy. We just finished our first unabashed product design work right in the middle of the “smart product” sector. Networked kitchenware with [redacted] as a client. And I’m super proud of it. It’s beautiful, inventive, and – mostly importantly for me – accessible. This product won’t be just for smart product connoisseurs, it’ll be for everyone. We’re just starting on the second phase now.

Other consultancy work touches various parts of what smart products mean, to experience, for interfaces, in terms of new norms, for companies and for humans. So one our ways of transforming products will be influencing their design by collaborating with the R&D departments of major technology firms. But this kitchenware work is the sharp end of it: thinking through making, in order to invent products that end up in people’s homes. More of that please.

And all this is tough, you know, starting up an autopoietic system from scratch, trying to get every single part to move simultaneously.

So getting a studio like this up-and-running feels like a black start.

One day we’ll be our own power station, humming along and lighting up a city of smart products, ones touched by particular BERG values — happiness and hope, whimsy, socialising, play, excitement, culture, invention.

In the meantime: we do what has to be done. Fire up the diesel generators! Jump start the heavy turbines by flashing the electricity grid with a solar flare to create a potential difference across 2,000 miles! (Can we arrange that? I suppose not, but it’s worth a go.)

You take on work to build capabilities to generate experience and expertise. You punt the ball as high as possible into the air, judging that you can get a team beneath it before it comes down. You jumpstart. You do things during the process that you wouldn’t do in operation. But during the start, there’s no point waiting. It’s the order that matters. Order and speed.

And I look at the things that I’m doing, and when my intuition tells me that something isn’t right – because that’s not what a fully operating machine would do – or when my intuition tells me something is necessary but my logic queries it — I try to remember that this is just where we are in the process, and double-check my assumptions. Remember this: These are the revolutionaries going town to town in Cuba, doing what needs to be done to close in on Havana. One day someone will have to figure out the national endowment for the arts. But not today. This is the bootstrap, where you cut through and do what has to be done because this is what you’ve got, and you gotta get to the point where the run loop runs. This is the colonisation of Ka, of Thalassa, of Reiradi, of Sindychew. It’s the runway, it’s why people take funding (we didn’t, we’ve been going 7 years and every 24 months it’s a bigger bootstrap), it’s what you do to make the reaction self-sustaining so you can light up the city. It’s the black start.

So yeah, that’s what was on my mind last week, in week 371. And then over the weekend I relaxed by spending a couple of days in the sun watching the cricket. South Africa methodically trounced England, if you really want to know.

The black start.

Recent Posts

Popular Tags