Quick heads-up about two upcoming events:

first, I’m going to be talking at Playful, a one-day event run by Pixel-Lab as part of the London Games Fringe. It’s got a fabulous line-up, is at the beautiful Conway Hall, and is a steal at twenty-five quid. If you’re wondering whether or not you should go, then yes, you should. If you’re wondering what I’m doing there: a short twenty-minute session (as they all are, in fact), entitled Everything Is Multiplayer Now. It’s a remixed, rejigged, and heavily updated take on some of the ideas in Playing Together.

I’m going to shoot off shortly after I’ve spoken there – not because of the quality of the afternoon line-up, because let’s face it, it’s cracking – but because I’m making my way to Nottingham for the remnants of Gamecity, a three-day games festival (that begins on Thursday the 30th). It’ll be a shame to miss the first day, but I’m hoping to catch Jonathan Coulton and his Zombie Choir, not to mention the excellent events on Friday and Saturday.

As part of that, I’ll be giving a lunchtime session on Saturday, in the Mogal-e-azam Indian restaurant. That’s going to be entitled “A World Run By Gamers“. The brief precis I supplied looked something like this:

It’s more likely than ever that in the coming years, people with power – political, industrial, corporate, technical – will have played videogames. And not just had a passing experience with them; they may actually be what we might term “gamers”. In the coming years, the world will face such as impending recessions, peak oil, and global warming (not to mention all manner of other difficulties over the horizon). And it’s not just impending disaster; there are all manner of positive challenges we’re going to have to rise to. What have videogames taught the leaders and innovators of tomorrow? What are the necessary skills for the 21st century that gamers have been learning for years? What can we learn from games, and what can gamers – and game designers – take to other industries and sectors? Tom will examine these questions with reference to MMOs, football management, survival horror, twitch-shooters, beat-em-ups, and more, with barely the briefest reference to SimCity.

Which, you know, could be interesting. And if it’s not, then the food will be good (and you know the rest of the festival will be awesome).

So: end of the month, lots of stuff about games in London and Midlands, and that’s where I’ll be.

Just a quick note to say that I’ll be talking at Skillswap Brighton tonight. The talk is a re-work of a talk I gave at LRUG in London a month or two back; it’s called “Settling New Caprica“, and it’s about how to get that pet project off the ground:

Pet projects: everybody’s got them. But how many of them never see the light of day? In this talk, Tom Armitage looks at some of the obstacles that impede such projects, and how to get over them. The talk also considers some ways to streamline the process of releasing software when you’re your own client, and perhaps might give some ideas to improve not only your personal projects, but your work projects as well. There should be plenty enough time for a healthy Q&A session after the initial presentation.

The talk isn’t hugely long – about 30 minutes – but I’m hoping there’ll be some healthy discussion after it, on topics as diverse (to give you an idea of what’s coming) as personal project management, version control, deployment, and building Twitter bots for fun and profit.

Once the talk’s done and dusted, I’ll try and get a copy of it online by this weekend. Many thanks to Nat and James for the invitation to talk!

My Outboard Brain

16 June 2008

My del.icio.us links, as visualised by the lovely Wordle. Looks about right to me, which is always a good sign of the accuracy of a visualisation. Very pretty. (Click through to see it bigger).

Some exciting news: I’m going to be talking at NLGD, the Dutch Festival of Games in Utrecht, in two weeks time.

I’m going to be talking about “What games can learn from social software”. There’s lots of interesting stuff going in social software and Web 2.0 as a whole that really isn’t permeating far enough into the games industry – yet – so this talk is designed as an overview of some of the more interesting (and not immediately obvious) aspects of social software, and how they might apply to games. I think it should be both fun and informative, and despite the usual pressures, I’m looking forward to writing it a lot.

The talk itself is spun out of my session at Gamecamp, which turned out to be incredibly successful – lots of great discussion and enthusiastic feedback.

And so I’m going to Utrecht. Looking forward to it, if only because it’s always exciting to attend a conference outside your core interests. I’ve spoken about games before, but never to the games industry, so that’ll be quite exciting: lots of new people to meet, lots of new perspectives to hear.

A new year

03 January 2008

Here we are in 2008, then.

2007 was, I think, hectic. The first half was largely uneventful; busy at work, mainly. Everything ramped up from about May, though: another trip to Copenhagen to attend and talk at Reboot, which was fantastic as ever; then a short natter at Interesting 2007.

At the end of August, Alex and I eschewed our usual city-breaks for a week in Whitstable, escaping to the seaside with books, beers, and a camera. It turned out to be one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. A few weeks later, we went to the End of the Road Festival, and had a fantastic weekend amidst great music, lovely weather, and a bunch of peacocks.

And then, in October, I left Nature after 18 months. I enjoyed my time there by and large, but found myself clashing with the corporate culture far more than I’d expected. Working with a non-colocated team (the majority of whom were on GMT -5), in an environment that didn’t exactly support multidisciplinary interests so well, turned out to be tough at times, and it slowly wore me down. I made many good friends there, and learned a lot, so I was sorry to go, but I think I made the right choice for me. I left to join Headshift, returning to being in a smaller company, and which seems to be working out OK, so far. I’m still working out what I want to do; Headshift seems to be a good place to do that.

I liked 2007, all in all, although I found the hectic nature of it quite tiring by the end. I hope that this year will be no less eventful; I also hope to be able to manage it better.

On to the year to come, then. A new year is traditionally a time to make resolutions. Some will always be private, but I think it’s time to make some in public, if only so I can hold myself to them. And so: here are some things I want to be able to hold myself to:

  • I’m going to write down what I read. Alex does this very effectively, and I’m annoyed that I haven’t got good records, because I’m convinced I read way more than I think I did. Still, I think I’ve done OK this year.
  • Actually, I’m going to write down everything I consume much better – films and games, especially. This might involve a spreadsheet; it might involve an existing service like All Consuming. We’ll see.
  • I think I might actually launch a web app, for real. I’ll keep you all posted on this one, but it’s not far off now.
  • I’m going to write more about what I do, if only because I want to work out what I do. I write code; I design interactions; I think about things. When people say “what do you do?“, I say that “I make things on the web“. This is deliberately vague. I’m still trying to work out if that’s really what I want to do, or if I have some higher-level goal in mind. Right now, I’m finding it hard to juggle an interest in programming with a desire to push my design/product thinking a bit harder.
  • I’m going to write more about what I enjoy. I want to write about photography a lot more, and my games-writing here has tailed out a little bit. That should be redeemed a bit.
  • I’m going to write more, full stop. There’s too much to keep in my head and to the pub forever. I need records.
  • I’m going to lose weight – get rid of some flab, try and vaguely acquire some tone. This is going to be hard, but more frequent runs and less snacking will get us a long way.
  • I’m going to keep a better notebook. I’m always embarrassed by my scratchy handwriting, my shapeless layouts, my mucky scrawl. I envy my friends their tidy notebooks, often embellished with bold illustration. I’m always too afraid of making a mess, and I think perhaps too afraid to make the notebook an artefact in its own right (rather than an transition artefact). This fear also means my notes are, sometimes, either too brief or too illegible to be of real use, and I think if I took more care over the artefact itself, it’d be more useful to me.
  • I’m going to learn to drive. About time.

I think I’m going to end up rambling if I don’t stop soon, so maybe that’s enough resolutions. I’m not sure I can keep to them all, but I want to have them here, in public, to be held to and to return to at the end of the year. We’ll see how we did then.

I hope you enjoyed your 2007. Here’s to 2008.

Pastures New

06 October 2007

This week, after 18 months there, I left my job at Nature Publishing Group. I’m sad to go, of course; I’ll miss the friends I made whilst working there and the chance to work with many smart, engaged, talented people. I also had the opportunity to work on and help shape several exciting projects, most notably Nature Network and Nature Precedings.

It’s been an enjoyable ride, and I’m surprised at the sheer amount I learned in those eighteen months. For starters, I appear to have learned how to be a programmer in that time. I’ve also had the chance to stretch my design skills, notably in the design of interactions.

I knew from the start it would never last forever; one day, other opportunities would arise. It turned out that I was right.

On Monday, I start work at Headshift, making technological things to help people better engage with one another. It looks fun – and it looks challenging.

I can’t wait.

Back from the End of the Road

18 September 2007

Back after a weekend away at the End of the Road festival, and what a weekend it was. Wonderful weather, great company, and only the briefest hints of rain. It felt pretty special: a small festival (only 5000 tickets), lots of families, great food, wonderful music, and a schedule that never felt too crowded, but always yielded serendipitous discoveries wherever you looked. Highlights included:

  • Bumping into a musician practicing on the piano in the piano garden, and being his audience for a while
  • The peacocks! (Larmer Tree Gardens has several resident peacocks, who would happily wander around the paths)
  • Finding that friends I wasn’t expecting (Ben-Rizla, Tim) were also there
  • Discovering Midlake in their wonderful 90-minute set
  • Darren Hayman + co’s impromptu secret bluegrass gig in the piano garden
  • Hush The Many playing a lunchtime set like it was a headline show (and subsequently chatting to Nima from HTM the next day – November 9th, at the 100 Club if you want to see them again)
  • The fantastic burritos at the Mexican place – their breakfast burrito was a triumph
  • I’m From Barcelona‘s hilarious, uplifting, ecstatic afternoon show – crowd-surfing-on-a-lilo and all
  • Jim White‘s humble, delightful songwriting
  • Cooking breakfasts and lunches on our Trangia
  • Architecture from Helsinki – at times bewildering, and then just as I’m about to leave, they bring it around with some dirty four-to-the-floor. They battled poor sound to give a good show
  • Finally getting to see Salter Cane perform (congrats, Jeremy!)
  • The stage invasion during SFA‘s The Man Don’t Give A Fuck
  • Standing around the fire at night with some particularly fine hot chocolate
  • Kurt Wagner’s majestic, delicate closing Lambchop set

There were many others, but that should give you the idea. Alex and I spent a while trying to describe what tied all the acts we saw together, given they felt so disparate. But in the end, there was definitely one thing that brought them altogether: a shared sense of humility. The organisers were thanked in practically every set; the festival lauded similarly. So many musicians and bands just seemed so thankful to be there, and would always inform the audience of this – usually prior to thanking the audience themselves. And they all meant it. It felt wonderful to be at such a gentle, honest festival, which made up in heart what it lacked in bravado.

Already, I cannot wait for next year.


25 August 2007

I’m off to the seaside on holiday. To Whitstable, to be precise (which still isn’t in Dopplr, despite the remarkably good gazetteer update). Looking forward to it a huge amount. I’ve been a bit burnt out in recent weeks, with piles of work and other things. Means I’m behind on uploading photographs, writing about things, putting things out into public.

Never mind. I’ve got 7 days on the coast to read, walk, eat, and recharge my batteries.

And then we begin again.

It’s hard to describe how much I’m looking forward to this. The beautiful weather can only be a good sign, right?

Status Report

01 July 2007

A long while since my last “real” post, then. In that time a lot’s happened; most significantly, I failed to pass comment on Russell Davies’ Interesting 2007, which was pretty excellent. There’s lots of stuff scattered around the web and Russell’s on site about it. It was a delightful, gentle, eye-opening, very British day of talk, tea, and apples. So good, I stayed out eating and drinking, rather than heading to Hack Day until the next day.

What I saw of Hack Day on Sunday was pretty good. I even attempted a hack in about half an hour, which went far enough as proof of concept without really being worth showing. It was a gag-hack, basically, but fun to have the challenge.

My talk at Interesting is available on Slideshare. Not only that, it’s also available on my slightly-revamped talks page. I say “slightly” revamped, because the whole markup could do with an overhaul, really, but for now, there’s lots of Slideshare action – including slides from my ETech talk last year, previously too big to host on my pitiful hosting.

Workwise, we had the official launch of Nature Precedings, which is a place for life-scientists and life-science researchers to share pre-publication and in-progress work; something a bit like a preprint service for the life-sciences community. If you’re within the larger scientific community, you might understand why it’s reasonably significant. It generated a fair bit of buzz, and I hope it goes from strength to strength. Great to work with many colleagues from NPG on it, as well as with the team at Thoughbot.

As ever, I’ve been neglecting the blog, but I’m thinking of ways around that – less, more often, might end up being some kind of solution. Right now, I feel on the cusp of something, but I have no idea what – how big it is, what it is. I’m just pushing myself forward, hoping to find that edge at some point soon.

In the meantime: I’ll keep linking, keep taking pictures, keep writing, and keep aggregating the results of those endeavours here.


First, I’m going to be talking (or prattling) about pipes and tubes at Russell Davies’ Interesting 2007. Should be excellent.

Then, when it’s over, I’m off to Alexandra Palace for Hack Day. I have some partners in crime there who I should be able to fall into line with.

Crikey. That’s a weekend and a half. I’m going to need a holiday.