Random Etc. Notes to self. Work, play, and the rest.

Ah right, the blog.

It's been a while. Hello again.

A few months ago I left Stamen after almost 4 awesome years. I planned to review the work we did together here but I've been procrastinating on that for long enough so I thought I'd better post something before it's not news any more.

I already miss working at Stamen but in August, green card in hand, I felt it was time for a change of pace. I'm taking the opportunity to build a start-up with my friend and long-time Stamen collaborator Ben Cerveny. We'll both have a lot more to say about that as it takes shape, but you can stalk us here in the meantime if you want.

While we seek funding for our venture I'm freelancing a little bit, building demos for investors and trying to get exposure to some different ways of working. Stamen has proven there's at least one solid and sustainable business model for beautiful, interactive, dynamic mapping and data visualization. But a successful design service that like has a frenetic pace of work and high turnover of projects which I eventually found frustrating. Despite ongoing and successful efforts to build code libraries (like Modest Maps and Polymaps) I came to feel constrained by the clean-room/from-scratch implications of work-for-hire contracts.

That isn't a deeply serious criticism of Stamen. They continue to deliver amazing work (for clients like Bing, MTV and Nike) and art like Prettymaps and I don't believe their working style is flawed. This change is more about what I've learned about my own working style, my curiosity to explore different ways of working, and perhaps the shiny world-changing opportunities of the Bay Area. So with our start-up we plan to seek out and try other business models (licensing, advertising and more) that will allow us to tackle long term projects and give us space to build up our own tools and apply them across many different domains.

I'm also taking this time to re-immerse myself in the growing culture of creative coding that I came to know through the Processing community. That culture is alive and kicking in projects like ProcessingJS and Cinder and many other initiatives, something everyone involved with Processing should be proud of. At some point in the last few years I picked up deep javascript knowledge, which means I share the excitement about projects like Node and I've been making small contributions in that ecosystem whenever I can. All that javascript seems to have made me a better programmer in general, and while it's early days I'm also picking up C++ again using Modest Maps as my test rig for both OpenFrameworks and Cinder.

It turns out this is quite a bit to get across in a couple of paragraphs and I have to get out of the house to see my accountant... how times change! Despite my continued .co.uk-isms I'll be based in San Francisco for the foreseeable future. If you're here too and you've read this far we should probably be talking more. My email address is 'tom' at this URL, or if we've met before there's LinkedIn and Twitter too.


Yay you’re blogging! Nice to have this address see some activity again. =)

Posted by Michal Migurski on 19 November 2010 @ 12pm

Good luck on your new venture! Can’t wait to see what you come up with.


Posted by Daniel Gasienica on 19 November 2010 @ 10pm

That’s fantastic, good luck! Also I jumped to see Ben’s name: we have never met but we have so many mutual friends and acquaintances that I’m never surprised to see him mentioned somewhere. He’s like a ghost haunting my network.

Also: thanks so much for the Polymaps link. It is EXACTLY what I need for a project I’m working on.

Posted by Darius K. on 23 November 2010 @ 5am

Congratulations and good luck! (Not sure how building a start-up will the fix the issue with frenetic working speeds and from-scratch implementation but I guess you have something in mind there :)

Posted by Moritz Stefaner on 25 November 2010 @ 12pm

did you get anywhere with the modestmaps c++ port? would love to see that usable within openframeworks!

Posted by steve on 16 June 2011 @ 7am

Steve, the link in the post is wrong but https://github.com/randomEtc/modestmaps-of is there as a stable proof of concept. It hasn’t had much love (the Cinder version has a few more features and better C++) but it’s definitely a good starting point. Douglas Stanley and his students were hoping to pick it up and polish it, I’ll email him now and see if anything came of it.

Posted by TomC on 16 June 2011 @ 9am