In some ways this is a long overdue blog post, but in other ways I'm not 100% sure of the conclusions I'm drawing. I guess I need to take my usual approach of writing about it, and see where things go.
Getting on for the past year, life has been hard.
Some self-inflicted and some just unfortunate combinations of circumstances and events that on their own wouldn't really be much of a big deal.
At the same time, there have been lots of examples of life being great, like having my book published (I still haven't written anything about that here, have I? I don't have "all the words need to go in the book" as an excuse now...) - and actually, the Italian translation: L'Internet delle Cose was published recently! - given talks in Bahrain and Ireland and at TEDxLiverpool...
As Sam Altman alludes to in a recent blog post Founder Depression, it feels like I've spent most of 2014 living with the cognitive dissonance of life that seems on the outside to be going fantastically, while privately that's far from the case.
I don't think I'm depressed, although lots of this honest and touching blog post from Ethan Zuckerman rings true. His comment that "smart friends counseled me that publishing a book often leads to feelings of loss and mourning" seems amusingly appropriate.
I'm sure depression is a spectrum rather than a binary state, so there's probably an element of that in there; however, it feels more like a combination of exhaustion and stress. This passage from Ethan's post sums up how things have been of late:
Everything scales until it doesn't. And in retrospect (and stupidly obvious when written down in black and white), writing a book alongside being CTO of a startup, continuing work on my own startup with a rather sizeable side project was always going to be asking too much.
Partner that with GNL stretching my cashflow to near breaking point and a an approach to consulting that's far too principled for my own (financial) good, and I think that neatly sums things up.
Rev Dan Catt does an excellent job of explaining life when trying to do the right thing by your conscience. I battle the same issues, and look for ways that I can prosper at the same time as making the world a more equal place and leading the Internet of Things into more open and better territory. At least, unlike Dan, I don't have any dependents...
I think the end is in sight. DoES Liverpool has been going through growing pains for a while now, and we seem to be getting things in place for that now (mostly thanks to Steve, Andy and John, rather than me).
Another of Rev Dan Catt's blog posts, detailing how he spotted, and dealt with, mild depression helped keep things on track, as I spotted a similar cause-and-effect in myself. Getting stuck into writing code, and making things, definitely helps keep me sane - so I've been indulging my interest in that, outside of client projects and whenever I've felt that I needed a break.
Even within paid work, the coding is always good, and that's been part of the problem this year - I've had lots of small projects on, and plenty of speaking gigs, and while I enjoy all of that, it's meant the creative-work-to-admin ratio hasn't been very good.
This blog post isn't a cry for help, as I say, things are mostly fine, and definitely headed in the right direction. That said, if you've got creative paid projects that I could help with, as always, get in touch. I've got some great family and friends, who are all very supportive.
I'm writing this more for future-me to refer back to, and because I always appreciate similar blog posts that I read from others. And to acknowledge that life is hard, and we don't all have to pretend it's wonderful all the time, despite what the advertisers want us to believe.
And a video, Numbers, by Robert Hloz imagining a world where some people see numbers above everyone else's heads:
On starting to read it, I discovered the manifesto contains a series of questions to work through. So I figured it would be interesting to blog my answers, and it's taken a little time to find the free space to do that.
In response to the preamble before the questions, I think that the artists (and other citizens and society members) should be looking to set the agenda, not follow it. What does Liverpool need, what does the UK need, what does the world need? We should play an active role in the discussions about society and the world around us.
And onto my responses. Ping me if you end up doing the same, I'm more interested in the conversation than in my responses...
The Liverpool bit is important to me, all my physical work is signed as such. It matters in a simple way because I moved back to help make the city better, having grown up with it in a pretty poor way. It matters in a bigger way because the city is open to new ideas and thought in a way that Cambridge never was (to me at least). And it's a city, so big enough to have an impact on the world, but small enough that an individual can make a difference in the direction, the meter of that impact.
I don't think there's one aesthetic, nor should there be. The city is far too big and contains far too many artists for that. However, there's definitely an strand of laser-cut birch ply, Arduino-powered interactivity and interaction with the Internet running through my sub-section of the arts scene.
I think there's more crossover between technologists and artists in Liverpool than you get in most other cities, save maybe Bristol, in the UK. I think that benefits both the arts world and the technology community.
When we're honest with ourselves and each other. When we look out to the rest of the world and participate in it, rather than merely setting ourselves against it. When we celebrate work because it's good, not just because it was created within the city boundaries.
A more porous seam between technology and the arts - allowing technologists to influence the arts, but possibly more importantly encouraging artists to influence technology.
It's a work-in-progress (and probably always will be), but DoES Liverpool provides a large part of what I need.
I'm not sure I'm ready to become a fellow of the academy, but I'm definitely up for continuing the conversations and critical dialogue. More of this sort of thing, please.