January 23, 2013

Links: Design, the Internet of Things, legalities and work

Things are rather busy at the minute, and I'd amassed a few open tabs in Firefox of assorted things I thought "ooh, I should share that" when I encountered them in my RSS reading. Normally they'd just go out as a tweet, with a brief bit of background but as (a) I'm not on twitter as much at the minute (see earlier point about being busy...) and (b) when I am, I'm already sharing plenty of links (partly because we're in promo mode for the Good Night Lamp kickstarter campaign and partly because I've been blogging quite a lot - for me of late - recently) I figured I'd continue the blogging-kick and post an old school link post.

  • Hack Design An online course trying to teach developers how to be better designers. I've signed up, and so far it's been quite interesting. We'll see how long I last...
  • A few thoughts on design and the internet of things. A fairly long piece from Tim Burrell-Saward, which suggests some design principles for connected devices. It's nice to see other people starting to talk about these sorts of things. I liked "make it Poppins"
  • Tom Coates - An Animating Spark: Mundane Computing and the Web of Data. More principles for the Internet of Things, this time from Tom Coates. Principle #3 is excellent, although I'm not sure I agree with principle #7, I can see why he's included it but I'm much more a fan of keeping intelligence at the edge of the network where possible.
  • A Moment of Silence for Aaron Swartz. Bunnie Huang sharing his experiences of challenging tech behemoths and how the legal system can be used against someone doing things on the edges of the ordinary. A great post, such a shame it was written in the tragic circumstances of Aaron Schwartz's suicide.
  • Hiut Denim - Do the work. Now you're (hopefully) fired up about doing important work and changing the world, a great reminder from Hiut Denim that all we need to do now is the hard work it takes.

Which is a good note for me to end on - part of the reason I've been blogging (a bit) more of late is that it works as a good way to get my writing muscle-memory going, so I can get on with finishing the next chapter of my book (another thing I'm long overdue explaining here, but that will have to wait for another day...)

Posted by Adrian at 08:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2013

The Good Night Lamp

For the last few years I've been going on about the Internet of Things is going to change the world, and how connected devices can enrich our lives.

One of the people I've been working with over that time, on a variety of projects, is Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino.

Alex is a brilliant designer who really understands the nuances of connected devices, and we share a belief that the Internet of Things will only truly take off when it reaches everyday people and not just the geeks. So when she asked me to get involved with her latest project, the Good Night Lamp, of course I was interested.

Making connected devices that normal people, rather than geeks, want to use isn't an easy task. They won't put up with a complicated UI just so they can use the gadget, so we have to design and build a technology project that isn't about the technology. And as we're creating something that we want people to accept into their homes it also needs to be beautiful.

Whilst there's lots still to be done I think we're on course to create something really lovely, as you can see from the video below.

However, unlike in the software world, turning a prototype into a finished product takes more than just hard work. We need to get PCBs designed and manufactured, sort out the assembly process for the lamps, pass certification tests, etc. All of which will require investment. So, if you'd like to help, it would be awesome if you could back our Kickstarter campaign or tell your friends about it. Or both...

Thanks. I'll report back on how things progress.

Posted by Adrian at 09:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 16, 2013

How the Web Should Be

Recently Anil Dash wrote an excellent blog post lamenting the web we could have had, the one before Facebook, Google and even Twitter started trying to enclose chunks of it and before links between sites got polluted by SEO (which is really Google's fault for monetizing links).

Anyway, Anil does a much better job of explaining it than I do, so go read his blog post. He's written a good follow-up post too, suggesting some ways we can improve matters.

I got chatting about it in the office to Paul Freeman, or maybe it was more that I started ranting about it... how people don't know that URLs are important, or that they should aim for small pieces, loosely joined, and sites that are of the web rather than just on the web.

And it turned out that he wasn't as au fait with these concepts as I'd expected, and he asked which blog posts he should read, or talks he should watch, to understand what I was on about. So of course, rather than just email him, I'm using my place for publishing things on the web and writing it here on the off-chance it's useful to a wider audience. That's something that Jon Udell, one of the people who deeply understands the web, calls the principle of keystroke conservation.

And we'll start our exploration with a piece from Jon - Seven Ways to Think Like the Web.

Then onto the most important link in this whole blog post. If you only read/listen to one of the things I link to, make it this talk from Tom Coates. He covers the best ways to think about how to build your service, and the importance of good URLs.

Tom's blog post about Native to a Web of Data has the slides, and the audio is on the Web Archive.

More recently, Chris Heathcote gave a great talk about trust and authenticity...

And you can find his slides and links over on his blog.

There are more that I should probably include, from people like Matt Jones and Matt Biddulph and Phil Gyford. However, the combination of my memory and the difficulties of good archives for blogs means I've not been able to dig them out. It was an enjoyable evening poking around and re-reading things though.

That is one thing that books have over blogs though - because they tend to be more considered items, if forces you to work out what is important and discard all the random "ooh, I had a nice day on Saturday, here's a photo" ephemera. The ephemera is important but in a different way to the "this has stood, or I think should stand, the test of time" of bigger ideas or more thought out posts. However, it's hard to know at the time which blog posts are the weighty ones.

Presentations are a useful halfway-house, as they force the "what do you think is important to convey" condensing of thoughts, but as I've pulled this post together I've been wishing for more patina and wear on blog posts - that could have helped me find the things that we all found useful, or kept referring to, and also pointed me at things that I no doubt missed at the time. In a lovely bit of serendipity, I'll leave you with one last presentation - this time from Matt Jones - which covers patina among many other thoughts on Data as Seductive Material.

Posted by Adrian at 09:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 05, 2013

Blog All Documentary Quotes: I Love This Dirty Town

"We could actually live in cities, if we still believed in cities".

Another of the BBC Four Collections videos, I Love This Dirty Town is part of the "London" collection. However, it's not really about London specifically, and shows a bit of Cambridge and Coventry among other places as it provides what is effectively a good primer on Jane Jacobs' now classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities. There'll be a "blog all dog-eared pages" post for that here too when I finish reading it - lots of good stuff in it.

"If you don't look closely you think it works"

As ever, nothing is new - along with the mis-guided large-scale regeneration that I've often covered it's nice to see a guy from a design studio back then reusing the slightly-tired-but-full-of-character properties in the same way that we do today...

"They're packed with handy characters that you can find. Somebody to cut things for you, or make jigs or bolts or blow a little bit of plastic. There's always something, some little firm, some little chap around the corner who has exactly the particular craft you happen to want. You can grow almost any kind of photographic, light-engineering, design industry in these old buildings. And I would've thought that's a social gain."

On businesses in the city...

"There's nothing wrong with the big getting bigger, as long as the small get more numerous"

I do wonder if this is the nub of the problem - an eternal struggle between people who want to bring order to our cities, when the inhabitants are busy optimising for many more smaller and conflicting plans of their own...

"Planners are so paternalistic, don't they know that a lot of people have plans of their own? [...] Streets go up and they go down in the world, it has something to do with people who actually live there"

Posted by Adrian at 03:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack