Looking back on 2012

06 January 2013

2012, then. I thought, having seen James’ round-up of his (excellent) year, I should note down a few things about last year on a personal and professional level.

There was a good series of talks at a variety of events: the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Death, the Design of Understanding, LIFT, Brighton Mini Maker Faire, and dConstruct. And, importantly for me, they were all different, all new material (with one exception). I don’t like repeating myself if I can help it, if I only because I’ve usually changed my position on a topic!

Of these, I was especially proud of dConstruct: it’s always a great conference, and I’ve been going for years – so to be asked to talk, and ultimately becoming James Burke’s warmup man, was a real privilege. I’m also very proud of that talk: it condenses a lot of things I’ve been thinking about for most of my life into a thread, and shows Actual Work rather than just handwaving.

There was one more talk to end the year: a recorded talk for Radio 4’s Four Thought (mp3 here). I include this separately if only because its a different beast to a conference talk. A new subject area for me, but a heartfelt one – the changing shape of technology education. If dConstruct was a response to being the son of an amateur toymaker, then this was surely informed by being the child of teachers. Very proud to have been given is opportunity – and I’m also really proud of how the talk turned out. The response to it had been very flattering.

I did more than shoot my mouth off this year, though; there was work, too. For me, probably the biggest achievement at Hide&Seek was The Building Is… – our huge installation piece as part of the Gaîté Lyrique’s show Joue Le Jeu. Game design, software, electronics, hardware; all came together over at least six months of work. The team assembled – both internal and external contractors – was exceptional, and a joy to work with. I learned a lot about the nature of gallery installs, hardware builds, and game design for public space; furthered many technical skills; and, ultimately, got to watch people have fun with a thing we’d made. This project also led to living in Paris for a month in the summer. All told: really quite an experience.

In October, I left Hide&Seek to explore my own path – and became freelance. Since then, the most obvious “headline” project was my work for the Royal Shakespeare Company, making software and designing output formats to visualise motion on stage in print and wood. But there’s also been other work, too: rapid prototyping for a charity; interaction design for startup a and small firms; assisting Alex in workshops. And, towards the end of the year, entering (and being short-listed for) the Playable City award alongside PAN. Which, for less than three months of self-employment, feels like a reasonable start.

And then, of course, there were the personal projects, which varied in their daftness. Markov-chain deived descriptions of imaginary chocolates; books to collect my copious links in annual volumes; animated raindrops for Bus Tops; a ghost version of me, trapped a year in the past, on Foursquare; a hardware intervalometer for my SLR; various Kinect toys, including the Radio Roundabout visualiser. Glad I managed to both keep tinkering throughout the year, and also finish that tinkering.

Some travel: a trip to New York at the end of the year to visit friends, see the sights, and empty my head; a holiday in the Languedoc; the aforementioned Paris work; and Geneva for LIFT (including a trip to CERN). Good. There might be some more travel in 2013, I hope.

So what’s next for 2013? There’ll be some work with Caper in the spring, which I’ll be able to talk about by the summer. Some talks are slowly lining up. And, of course, I’m starting the meetings about client work and projects. There are a few on the horizon, encompassing design, web, and hardware work – but, as ever, I’m interested in new opportunities, so do get in touch.

In many ways, a roller coaster of a year, but one that ended more up than down, I think. Here’s to 2013.

(I nearly illustrated this post with the same picture James did. I’d forgotten that moment for a while, and seeing it again is a really, really happy moment. Myself, James, Ben, and Kars, looking out over Lake Geneva, one afternoon during a break at LIFT. Great to be surrounded by such great peers; a great view; great people to stare into the future with, shoulder to shoulder, and the right, Janus-like image for such a post. Pipped to it, though, eh.)

Playing In Public

04 September 2012

Quick work note, because it’s well worth pointing to:

On Monday 17th September, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank, Hide&Seek are running Playing In Public: a conference about the present and future of play in public spaces.

It’s exciting to see such a focused lineup of speakers exploring this topic. I’m excited to see Bennett Foddy, Ricky Haggett, Kerry Turner and Leanne Bayley dive into what games makers make of sport post-Olympics; I’m looking forward to having my brain tickled and expanded by Pat Kane’s keynote; and it’s always a pleasure to see Kars Alfrink speak.

It comes after three days of actual public play at the Hide&Seek Weekender, which should be a lot of fun of all shapes and sizes, and you can just drop into most events at the South Bank Centre over the weekend of the 14th-16th.

Tickets for the conference – which are very reasonably priced – are available from the South Bank Centre. Perhaps see you there!


03 August 2010

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to take part in Hide & Seek’s Wonderlab a few weeks ago: ten invited participants, three days, and a remit to explore and experiment in the world of games and play. It was fascinating, exhausting, and a great deal of fun.

Of course, it deserves a bit more explanation than that. I’ve written a much fuller exploration of what the event really was, and what I got out of it, over at the BERG website.

Goodbye, ETech

06 September 2009

Since its inception, ETech has been a vibrant gathering of the alpha geek tribe, bringing together some of the most innovative people and projects across the technology community. So it’s with regret that O’Reilly Media has made the difficult decision to discontinue ETech in 2010.

I only went once, but the lineups at ETech never ceased to impress and excite me. Recent years always looked particularly awesome: genuinely emerging, futuristic, and an understanding of “technology” that stretched far beyond the web. The ripples from that conference each March stretched far into the year ahead, even for those of us who couldn’t always go.

Hopefully, we’ll find somewhere else to highlight the genuine outbreaks of the future that we all so dearly need (and, I’d imagine, desire). The tech community is in a different place – and state – from when ETech began all those years ago, but there’s always more future to be pointed to and illustrated.

Back from Develop. It was very good; some good sessions, some great banter, some new friends, and my sessions didn’t go too badly. Winning all round, I think. There were two sessions I want to write some more about on Infovore when I get a chance, and I’ll also upload a tidied version of my talk in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime: I’m off to another conference on Tuesday morning. I’m going to TEDGlobal in Oxford.


This all came about rather surprisingly and quick; I was invited along by Nokia, one of the sponsors of the event, who are covering my ticket. It’s highly generous of them, and to be honest, I’m not sure what criteria led to my selection.

But it’s not an offer you turn down; just look at the programme! I’d never afford the $4500 (yes, really) myself for a ticket, but it’s also an opportunity I’d never turn down if I got the chance.

So that’s next week, then: off to Oxford with a notebook and a camera, to have my mind filled, and, I hope, a little blown. Exciting times.

Next week is Develop in Brighton, the UK’s premiere games industry conference, and I’m going to be involved in two sessions there.

The first session is part of “Evolve“, a single day before the conference proper combining their old online and mobile tracks into something more focused on the edges of the games industry – so now including social and casual gaming as well.

With a panel of industry experts, I’ll be asking the question “What Do Social Networking Sites Have To Offer The Games Industry“:

Facebook and Myspace each have over 100m unique users. The users of these sites are not only coordinating their leisure time through them, but spending their leisure time on them, and even playing games on them. What does that mean for the games industry? How can traditional games and game companies engage with the social networks – their users, their platforms, and the core gamers already using them? Are Facebookers casual-gamers-in-waiting? This panel invites representatives from top social networks to explain what gaming means for their products, and how they can support your efforts as games developers.

Hopefully, given the panel’s strengths and expertise, we can come up with some wide-ranging – and interesting – answers.

In addition to that, as part of the conference proper, I’m going to be talking about Games As A Service: what service design is, what it means for games and products of the future, and how some of the territory Schulze & Webb has been exploring when it comes to unproduct might apply to games. It’s called Never Mind The Box: Games As A Service:

The effort and finances needed to build full retail games is growing unsustainable. But what if you weren’t making a product? What would Games As A Service look like? Services encourage loyalty; they turn products into platforms; they empower users; they play well with others and connect to existing services; and at the large scale, they wrap other products and become super-products. Using examples from inside and outside the games industry – from tiny, open-source Davids to console-licensed Goliaths – Tom Armitage examines already successful notions of service design and explores what it will mean for your games, big or small.

So that’s next week, then. Better start writing them. And if you’re going to be at Develop next week – do come say hello!


30 May 2007

Recent radio silence has mainly been down to last ditch preparation for Reboot. And this post itself is a bit of a placeholder – I’m about to leap on trains to take me to planes, so there’s little time to write.

I’ll be in Copenhagen from this afternoon until the weekend. Can’t wait for the conference – last year’s was awesome. I’ll also be speaking at the conference, about modern manners for the digital world. I think it could be interesting, but I’m quite nervous about it.

I’m on email and Twitter as ever. If you’re Rebooting: do say hello.

Update: Will be late to CPH; the flight is delayed. Boo, hiss. Hopefully I’ll make the pre-boot party, but it’ll be tight…

Not much posting here for a while. Sorry. Lots of things going on, notably work, and also an impending hosting move. Erk! Anyway, I felt it was time to highlight some upcoming stuff I’m doing.

Exciting thing #1: I’m going to be speaking at Interesting 2007. The lineup looks awesome; I’m really glad that I’m going to be there, let alone be speaking. My talk is going to be about “pipes and tubes”. That’s not a metaphor. Things that might get covered: underground railways, pneumatic messaging, packet-switching, barrel-making, the logistics of building a chocolate factory. I’m still working it out, but it should be fun at the least. There’s so much other good stuff there – looking forward to finding out how to split a log with an axe, and to hear Schulze talk about comics (hurrah) and so many other things. And… I’m on the same bill as Matthew d’Ancona. Blimey.

Exciting things #2: I’m going to be at Reboot 9 in Copenhagen at the end of the month. Last year’s Reboot was a wonderful, wonderful experience: lots to chew over and lots of new friends found, so I’m really excited about this year’s. I’ll also be around in Copenhagen for a few days afterwards, for holiday. Everything’s booked apart from the hotel (tips welcome), and I can’t wait.

Exciting times, eh? I hope to be documenting them a bit more here.

Quick update

07 September 2006

Quick update before I hit the hay:

firstly, Barcelona was awesome. 7 photos are up on Flickr now; I’m hoping there’ll be about 50 in that set when I’ve found the time to process them. (For reference, I took 211).

Secondly: two conferences coming up. I’ll be attending d.Construct 2006 tomorrow in Brighton, and then I’m going to be talking (with my colleague and friend Gavin Bell) at Railsconf Europe, which could be quite intimidating. Looking forward to it, at any rate.

Then I’ll hopefully find time to do some blogging again, writing up some recent events, and talk a little more about photography. You’ll see why.