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

Posts Tagged ‘san-francisco’

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.

Dataviz Salon SF #1

Michael Driscoll of Dataspora invited a few people to a Dataviz Salon yesterday evening. Mike and I went along and huddled in a brick-built basement in SoMa to listen to the following:

Thanks to Michael for putting on a great event and getting everything together at such short notice. Hopefully there'll be another one soon!


Once again I've been beaten to the punch by Stamen, infosthetics, Geraldine, Esquire and more. But here it is for posterity: we released SFMOMA ArtScope a couple of weeks ago. This was a fun one, we're really pleased with the lens approach (rather than continuous zooming) and we're loving the serendipitous bouncing from piece to piece when you search.

screenshot from sfmoma.org/artscope

Inside info: the artwork is arranged by acquisition date, earliest acquisitions are top left and latest are bottom right.

Stamen ‘07

Eric just posted a review of what we got up to at Stamen in 2007. My second Thanksgiving at the end of November 2007 marked the end of my first year in San Francisco; 2 months after that it still feels new, fresh and exciting.

The variety of projects and clients at Stamen over the last year or so has been extremely satisfying. I probably won't get a chance to write them up thoroughly for myself, but I'm proud to have had a hand (large or small) in all the projects Eric wrote up (and several more besides!).

Here's to 2008!

Uniqlock and Californian Quakes

In a recent post about Google's Authentic Voice Problem, Nat Torkington documented the "time-honored marketing blog post formula":

  1. Find something topical.
  2. Identify the shiznit you wish to pimp.
  3. Find a line (however tenuous) between the two and the post just writes itself!

Something Topical.

There was a small but significant earthquake just outside Oakland last week. Lots of people were woken up by it. Dentures and tea-cups rattled throughout the bay area. Amazingly, around 6,000 people had reported it on the USGS's site by 10am in the morning. Go people!

USGS user-contributed earthquake map

Some Shiznit to Pimp.

I've been looking for an excuse to post about Uniqlo's clock website, featuring Japanese dancers on a one second timer, it's completely hypnotic (and yes the dancers are cute, I know that too). Now you can get your own for your blog, and share it with the world. 6,000 people have shared it so far.

The Line.

At Stamen we make beautiful interactive maps, native to the web. Imagine if the production qualities of the Uniqlo clock were brought to data as important as people's accounts of how an earthquake felt to them. That's the kind of work I aspire to, and I think that's where we're heading. What other tenuous lines should I be drawing in order to articulate this, I wonder?

Stamen is hiring a designer

Stamen, the company I work for in San Francisco, is hiring a designer.

If you're "someone who is a designer first and foremost, a coder a distant second, and who's interested in where these areas interleave" then please read the post on our site and consider getting in touch. I can't recommend us highly enough.

Neologism of the Day: Overflowded

I joined up with many British ex-pats at Adaptive Path yesterday evening for Schulze & Webb's The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Interaction Design. Suffice to say, the talk was excellent and thoroughly enjoyable.

In the Q&A session at the end I was delighted to hear a slip of the tongue from one questioner*, asking about Continuous Partial Attention: he wondered whether there wasn't a risk of being overflowded with information. OVERFLOWDED? That's lovely!

Coming a close second for me, but first for Yoz, was uncertainun. It was a good word day.

Update:  It was Reto Laemmler of Xcellery, who writes "I'm not a Poet or Writer and rather a Swiss guy who hasn't mastered English very well yet."  No matter! I hope the road to mastering English is paved with words like overflowded.

This is what it looks like when I’m doing the washing up.

This is what it looks like when I'm doing the washing up., originally uploaded by Just_Tom.

This marks the end of my third week in San Francisco. No news is good news - it's all going swimmingly.

I'll be in Dallas from Tuesday for two weeks, not sure how well my internet connectivity will fare, but I hope to post a little bit about my first month in the US. In the meantime, "happy holidays" and all that.

Consolidation and Relocation: Leaving London for San Francisco

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...)