We tried a lot of things out, had a popular hit with Planetary and a thoughtful flop with Biologic, and gathered data and wisdom about how the world responds to highly graphical/interactive environments for exploring everyday information. Stubbornly, of course, I still believe there's something there, but unfotunately there's not enough there to keep Bloom going today. If you're thinking about trying something similar then do drop me a line, I'd be happy to talk through what worked and what didn't.
In more upbeat news, I started a new job as a Data Visualization Engineer at Square! I'll have more to say about that as it progresses, but for now I'm content to soak it up and get to know how everything works.
As Bloom wound down I was fortunate enough to have the time to explore several different opportunities in depth and learn a lot about different approaches to building teams, companies and products. In some ways it was the first time I've ever felt part of a job market so I tried to take full advantage of that. It's a very good problem to have, but making a final choice was difficult.
It was tempting to take what I learned from Bloom and help build another company from scratch, or to return to my consulting/agency comfort zone, or to find a small company of friends where I would have immediate impact. In the end I've chosen the role where I think I have the most to learn, where I'll have a chance to apply myself differently, and get to know a kind of team, vision, scale (400+ people) and trajectory (new office, new markets) that I've never experienced before.
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.
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.
A couple of months ago I withdrew from my doctorate programme at UCL and shortly afterwards I handed in my notice at work. That could be interpreted as quite a miserable state of affairs, but it's far from it!
I'm going to San Francisco to work with Stamen Design, who I've admired for some time (especially for their cabspotting and digg labs projects). Thanks to them (and our lawyer) I now have a visa and I leave London next week. I've booked a one-way flight, which feels strange but somehow liberating at the same time.
More thoughts on this after the jump. (more...)