Work in progress

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On the 5th Jan, what looked to be the coldest night in a long time with temperatures dropping to -4 I think, we bravely welcome the plumbers into our home to rip out the bathroom and central heating.  So began two weeks of the outside toilet, huddling around fan heaters and spending more time at the gym than I have for a while (for the showers, you understand).  Fortunately, four days later we were graced with new central heating, which was nice.  It certainly helped us to cope with the remaining week and a half.

sink Two weeks on and we now finally have a working bathroom.  Although not finished, we have the essentials plumbed in and a particularly splendid bath which makes the entire experience worthwhile.  (It was certainly an *experience*!)  It has been a pretty ghastly couple of weeks.  I expected to find the lack of heating the biggest problem, but being squished into about a square foot of free sofa space and being surrounded by dust, dirt and a bathroom suite really did get to me.

We did the sensible thing and stayed in a hotel for the first weekend.  After a root around we decided on the Lansdowne Place Hotel, over on the Hove side of town.  It was nice (it had a bath!) and fairly reasonable for a mid-range hotel in Brighton.  There were a couple of things which let it down, but to be honest the hot running water put these into perspective for me and breakfast in bed certainly helped.

It’s odd staying in a hotel in your home town.  You’re away from home and yet there you are, bang in the middle of where you spend every day.  Walking into town, I actually looked around me rather than glazing over and wandering on auto pilot.  It was nice to walk “home” along the seafront rather than strolling in the opposite direction as usual.  It made me realise that ever since moving to Brighton eleven years ago, I have always lived in the same area.  It was refreshing to see Brighton from a different angle for a change.

A brief look back

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 | sophie, Uncategorized | No Comments

I was sitting on a very small area of sofa last night, surrounded by tools and dust and desperately trying to catch all the heat from the fan heater; having a good old think back over 2008.

My main feeling was that 2008 was a year of adjustment.  May was my first Clearleft birthday, and I noticed that I was really starting to feel comfortable in my new career and had adjusted to the new stresses and strains of project management and conference production.  Come August it was time to move and relocate the cats – 2008’s major adjustment.  The amalgamation of stuff has been a long winded affair, there’s still a little of my stuff back at the flat, but the majority has now been integrated into Rosehill.  This means I feel a lot more settled now, rather than a half-guest-hybrid as I did on occasion in the first months. The cats of course, are another matter and one I want to write about more deeply in another post.  A fragile arrangement has come about where Horace & Monty rule the upstairs and Zack & Zeke the sitting room.  There are occasional scuffles and sorties into the opposition’s territory but on the whole they are much more settled now.  My current adjustment is dealing with the dust, lack of hot water and toilet and the general disarray in the house whilst the new bathroom is fitted.  Boy will I be pleased when that’s finished!

I noticed I travelled far less in 2008 – the fantastic Lift in Geneva in February and then off to Greece and Halkidiki in September – was a considerable drop from 2007.  I am looking forward to heading back to the States and SXSW in March though and would love to head back to Black Rock City.  Oddly, I’ve missed airports.  (Yeah, I know, that is weird!)

I don’t really have any resolutions for 2009 but there are things I’d certainly like to do more of.  And of course, there’s that whole “jumping out of a plane before I’m 30!” thing – but more on that another day.


Hello to the worms

Monday, November 10th, 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Two years ago I bought Tom and myself wormeries for Christmas, an odd sort of Christmas present perhaps but I assure you that he had asked for one.  For a year or so they provided lots of lovely fertilizer for the garden but in the end met their demise, probably from over-feeding.

So a couple of weeks ago I decided it was time for a new wormery.  I do like our wormey familiars, they provide the lovely fertilizer for all those bulbs I’ve been planting recently and it’s also a lovely way to recycle all those kitchen scraps.

It takes a couple of weeks for the worms to get settled into their new home, but from this Wednesday we can start to feed them proper food.  In winter they eat a lot less, so it’s going to be a slow start, making sure we’re not overfeeding them again.  In a couple of months we’ll start to get the liquid fertilizer from the wormery, just in time for all the crocus, daffs, snowdrops, bluebells, tulips, irises and alliums I’ve been busily planting.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that the garden does fill with all these flowers.  I’m a little unsure of the quality of the soil, although this years summer plants did well (until the slugs got them anyway).  There’s still lots of ivy removal that needs to be done before spring, and the buddlea needs to be trimmed back.  With any luck, come March/April the garden with be alive with colour, rather than alive with fighting cats.

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catching up

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments

It’s now been a month since dConstruct and I do feel that I’ve caught up with myself.  It was a huge success this year, drawing in more attendees than ever before and yet again filling the day with some excellent speakers.

Despite what I may have said at the time, the few weeks and days before the event are what really makes me tick.  This was something I missed last year, being in the desert coping with a separate set of extremes.  There is something about the last minute panics, those problems you find you can do nothing about and of course watching the all those plans finally fall into place which makes the whole event for me.

This obviously means that I’m really pleased that we’ll be running another conference next year.  Running along different lines, a much more focussed three day event, UX London will taking place in London next summer.  It’s that bit further from home, which I’m sure will throw up a few logistical challenges: I can’t just run back to the office!  We have a fantastic line up, with Don Norman, Jared Spool and Jeff Veen to name but a few.  Just a little extra pressure then!   I am really looking forward to turning my hand to something a little different though.

Life at Clearleft has turned back to it’s normal pace now.  We’re working on some improvements to Silverback, working on some interesting projects and have been wrestling with the Agile UX bear.  I’m also going to be heading off to Future of Web Apps later this week, and Future of Mobile in November and am really looking forward to finally jetting off to SXSW next March.  A normal pace but not all that quiet; just how I like it.

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Lift Day One

Thursday, February 7th, 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Tom asked me yesterday what I was hoping to get out of Lift, I told him “I want to fill my brain with interesting stuff that I wouldn’t normally think about”. I’ve spent much of today doing just that, listening to some very smart people talk about fascinating topics, including online environments, user experience, sustainable development and getting a glimpse of technology usage in Asia.

I jotted down some notes, here are those I’ve found most interesting today.

Jonathan Cabiria, Permeability, Real Life + Virtual Life = One Life

Jonathan is a psychologist researching how participation in virtual worlds affects real life.

We present ourselves in certain ways, to certain people, in order to feel safe. We come together to be safe. We need to feel a sense of belonging; if we feel we don’t belong then we either rebel and hyper-identify ourselves or we close-in and cloak ourselves with an identity cover, a public face.

Taking part in virtual worlds can help those people who close-in to re-identify themselves as they actually are, rather than this fake self. These benefits then translate into real life, one life and not a split between virtual and real.

So creators should think more broadly and deeper about what they are creating, to solidify what we do in these social worlds.

Genevieve Bell, Intel

There are now nearly 30 anthropologist working at Intel.

45% of mobile phone users in the UK have admitted having lied about their whereabouts via text message.
100% of US online daters lie about their height (men) or weight (women).
James Katz – we’re entering “an arms race of digital deception”.

Secrets are different from lies/white lies. Sharing a secret cements relationships.

People tell between 6 – 200 lies every day, 40% to conceal misbehaviour, 14% to keep our own social world ticking over, 9% to increase popularity. Men tell 20% more lies then women, but women are better at it.

Lying is about creating the opposite of reality. Are lies a form of play? Israeli reserachers have found that online deception appears to be an enjoyable activity. Feelings of guilt, fear and shame are largely absent.

There are a number of sites now which exist to promote secrets, Twitter makes some forms of confabulation into art.

We now have many ways of uncovering & celebration deception: mobile phone tracking, use of video & camera phones, lie-detection algorithms on text messages and alibi services to create whole back stories.

Tensions between cultural practices and cultural ideals persit around secrets & lies. Do the twin ideas of secrets & lies offer new ways to think about privacy and security? What people really care about are the things they want to keep secret, the things they don’t want to be told.

Rafi Haladjian – Violet

Wanted to create calm technologies. The ratio of information to available time is increasing rapidly, multiplying screens is not the solution to this information overload. Wanted to explore new means of communication that use non-saturated senses and channels.

Created the Nabaztag – but why a rabbit? There are 30 reasons for this: “If you can connect a rabbit, you can connect anything”. Not only about functions, but also emotions. Rabbits have ears which are simple to move, rabbits don’t have a voice so they could add one, rabbits multiply, rabbits are Trojan horses…

What lies beyond the rabbit? RFID tags, Ztamps.

“Let things be connected. Let all things be connected.”

Brain now full, but I’m looking forward to this evenings fondue.

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