Sketching with Code

Cheers, Medium!

I just added the word “writer” to my Twitter bio, which is something I really didn’t see coming.

Higher resolutions

It’s nearly New Year’s Resolution time again. Time for the dieting and fitness industry to start pumping out messages about changing your…

Hackathon and on and on

There’s been much talk recently about the criteria we should use when hiring new people onto a technical team.

A tiny act of feminism

I have four kids. Two boys and two girls. Each night that I make it back for bed-time, I give the eldest boy and girl a beaker of milk.

Don’t just do one thing

A few years ago I was stuck. I’d stopped enjoying what I was working on, and I needed a change.

This is from everyone

Tim Berners-Lee famously tweeted the simple phrase “This is for Everyone” at the Olympic Games opening ceremony in my home town of London…

Will I really steal your idea?

“Hi! I’ve got an idea that I want to talk to you about, but first I need you to sign this non-disclosure agreement”.

Accelerating serendipity

Luck plays an unusually large part in any success story—just skimming through a few bestselling biographies will reveal how much people…

Makefulness

There are days where several things align to provide the perfect environment for making—a challenge, a deadline, a passion for doing…

What gets done is what gets done

I often end the work week at Makeshift with the feeling that, although I’ve got a lot done, I’d need another whole week just to catch up.

When to give up

Sometimes, the best advice to give someone is to tell them to give up.

30 days of Medium

I’d not written in ages, and I never used to get comments on anything that I wrote online.

Learning by hacking

My general principle for how I spend my time is Create Something Every Day.

Ignore the news

Five months ago I made the decision to stop listening, reading and watching mainstream news and to focus my attention where it’s more…

Speaking about Sketching

I spoke at the Open Innovation Conference, and here are my slides from the event. I’ve spoken about Sketching with Code a few times now, and it seems to go down really well - a few people even told me it was inspirational at this event, which is all you...

Get Back To The Craft

In writing this I started thinking about how I moved from coder, to designer, to owner of an agency, and then quite suddenly back to coder again. It was about getting back to the craft. Startups are more interesting than agencies. Starting Makeshift, we had a conversation quite early on....

Fail in Parallel

If you think about a startup, there’s usually one big idea that the founders have set upon and are absolutely committed to. They’ve told their friends and their families that this one’s going to be the big thing, that they’re fully committed on the idea and that nothing’s going to...

Stop Feeding the Beast

I got my first experience of the web quite early in its life. Back then I was connecting BBSs (bulletin boards) via a dialup phone line, and mainly using it so that as a schoolkid I could get hold of interesting fonts. When the web arrived, I volunteered to do...

Go Wide, Go Narrow, Go Wide Again

Before Aframe I was in a “wide” mode - I was open to lots of opportunities, playing with lots of ideas, experimenting with ideas with a wide range of people, saying “yes” to lots of things. “The main thing, is to make the main the thing, the main thing”, whilst...

Hacking at Do Startup

I was invited to be a guest hacker at Do Startup, the name for this year’s Do Lectures. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s often referred to as being quite similar to TED, if you could imagine it being held in a teepee in the beautiful Welsh country-side. I...

Hack, Play, Learn — an eBook in progress

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Hack, Play, Learn — Slides from Google Campus

I’ve been thinking for some time about distilling some of the things I’ve been researching via this blog into a presentation. I’ve also done surprisingly little public speaking since coming to London. So I did a talk at Zoe Cunningham’s Tech Talkfest at Google Campus on “Hack, Play, Learn”. Here...

How do you decide whether your idea is worth making?

For the last few years I’ve been concentrating on “getting good at getting fast”. Finding ways to improve how quickly I can develop an idea into a tiny hack and see if it’s any good. There’s a step before that, and it’s something that we’re tackling at Makeshift. Our early...

Back to #startuplife with Makeshift

I’m doing a new thing. It’s called Makeshift and we’re rapidly hacking on digital products that give a leg up to the little guy. “We” is Paul Birch (one of the Bebo founders, well known London angel investor), Nick Marsh (ex-design director at Sidekick) and me. I thought I should...

The Exploralaboratorium - six week-long hacks for Comic Relief

Hackdays are brilliant fun, and as I’ve learnt, you can achieve a remarkable amount in a short space of time. But what if you gave them a little more time? And what if you did them repeatedly to some kind of brief for a single organisation? I met up with...

Concluding thoughts on my research

It’s time to write up what I’ve been researching this past year. I’m limited to 3000 words, and what’s clear is that there is much more here to discuss, and a lot more detail that I could get into about the question “what are cultural organisations learning from hacker culture”....

Speaking in Shetland about Eigg and Geeks in Residence [video]

Video of a talk I gave in Shetland with Lucy Conway to give a talk about our experience of the Geek in Residence programme so far. We’re nearing the end of the experience, so now is a good time to pull together some of the things we have learnt. Ambition...

Getting good at getting fast

I’m about to write up my research for NESTA/Clore’s paper that set me off on the task of researching culture and hacking. Time to have a look back. Attending the Culture Hack series of events has had quite a big impact on my life. I now hack for a living!...

Telling stories with hacks

I’ve been doing a couple of history hacks while on Eigg and I’ve made two things that might be of use to others. One of my frustrations about Eigg is that it’s an island with lots of very interesting and inspirational stories, but they’re not bring told online. In 1997...

A place to make and do

We’ve banned the word “creative”. Lucy and I have spent time thinking through the proposition that is Eigg Box and I’ve set her a challenge to talk about what it is but not to use that word to describe it or the people who might go there. It is proving...

Returning to Eigg

My third trip to the island, and this time we have a deadline for having something to show. I’ve made some interesting stuff already, and this trip we will be making some things we have been planning. So far: Skit A tool to build and manage a simple website using...

Digital Sizzle - a short documentary

This is a great half-hour video that documents the whole of the Digital Sizzle Art Hack from beginning to end. What’s really interesting about this hack day is that it was specifically about bringing artists and hackers together to make new work, followed by a show at the Whitechapel the...

My Eigg residency, part two

It’s the end of my second visit to Eigg and it’s been eventful! Lucy and I are using this blog post as a way to take notes while we talk through our plans. One of the main problems is having too many ideas and too little time! Here’s what I’ve...

Refocussing the residency

I’ve been thinking about what I’m supposed to achieve with my residency on Eigg this autumn, and came to some conclusions today. Eigg Box is in the very early stages of its development, so things I do now to help get it off the ground are going to be looked...

Artist or Hacker?

“Arthacking and exhibition to remember” is the theme of the next Digital Sizzle hackday, one of East London’s many tech industry meetup events. It’s an event with the intention of bringing people together who want to collaborate around converting raw data into art in some way. Something caught my eye...

What's the point of a hack day if nothing happens after the event?

A question I was asked today, and it got me thinking. Attend a good hack day and you will see tens of hacks presented in the final rounding-up session, but how many of these prototypes and sketches go on to be developed further, turned into real products and services, companies...

Preparing your data for a hack day

In advance of the more well-planned hack days I’ve seen recently, one of the new ideas that they have been trying out is organising pre-event workshops and events for the organisations who will be supplying data for the main hack event. There seem to be a few reasons for doing...

Who owns the hack?

Attend any hack day or hackathon and at some point someone will ask a question about ownership over a hack - the software and design that has gone into its production, any data/APIs that it uses, and any pre-existing stuff (software libraries, things copied and pasted from previous projects, etc.)...

Demonstrable productivity over time

Quick hacks are great for testing out an idea, getting started on something quickly, instilling a feeling of “this doesn’t have to be slow and painful”, and so on. And getting something demonstrably “done” very quickly is a very positive experience. There’s a problem though - if you do things...

Using the Word "Hacking"

The word “hack” can confuse people who’ve not come across it before, other than in the context of a “hacker” doing something illegal or malevolent, and as a result, the term “hack day” can be quite scary. Last year I attended National Hack the Government day with Rewired State. It’s...

Being a hacker on a remote Scottish island

Wow. Well that certainly was an experience I’ll remember. I’ve just come back from my first trip to Eigg and I shall seemingly be known, I hope affectionately, as “Our Geek” by the fascinating array of folk I met while I was there. For some of the next few months...

Beginning my Eiggbox Geek-in-residency

Hacking an island? It’s not often you get an opportunity to do that, so I’m pretty excited about going to the Scottish island of Eigg and being one of the first geeks in residence on Sync’s new cultural/technology project. Here’s a collection of initial thoughts about what I might do...

Culture Hack East 2012 (Video)

I recently hacked at Culture Hack East, and the folks at Project Trident were there making a short video of the day. I think this sums up a lot of what happens at a cultural hack day, so I’ll leave it at that, other than to say ”I’ve finished my...

Learning Driven Development

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Don't organise a hack day

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The Hack as the Message

Is the hack what matters, or is it the message that you can send by doing the hack that’s the important thing? I’ve been spending time looking at cultural hacks, attending events and talking to people who work in this way, and I’ve noticed three groups of hacks that I’d...

Loosely-coupled productivity

A short conversation on Twitter made me realise something. In early projects I tend towards working in a very loosely-coupled way in order to maximise everyone’s productivity. I wonder if there’s something to explore here when we think about how hack projects, rapid collaborations and hackdays work best. Here’s the...

Hack and Scratch

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Hack, Play, Learn

Build, Measure, Learn. It’s the new mantra adopted by many a tech startup thanks to Eric Ries’s influential The Lean Startup. I’ve spent a good deal of time over the last few years involved in (more than one) startup. In many ways I’m very grateful for this simple, shorthand phrase...

How and what are cultural organisations learning from hacker culture?

For the past few years I’ve immersed myself in the world of hack days, and become pretty interested in collaboratations between hackers and artists / cultural organisations. Not “hacker” in the sense of someone who does something evil to a bank’s website, but rather “hacker” in the sense of someone...