anthony galvin

What is the countryside for. 

It’s a question that’s increasingly discussed, often in light of factory farming, wind farms, fracking or the housing policy. 

But it’s not just a directly economic asset. It’s also an escape route. After a genuinely difficult week for our family, we struck out on our usual short loop around the patchwork of fields and pathways that surround the village. 

This isn’t picture postcard England. The sights on our circuit incorporate the village football pitches, a couple of light industrial units, a view of Milton Keynes in the distance, some former clay pits (“the bomb hole”) and on Saturday the joy of a red kite soaring over the fields and a clear light that shone some brightness back into our family life.

The countryside is ‘for’ lots of things - but not all of them are easily measured in pounds or acres.

Tags: stewkley words walk autumn

2014-10-27 09:47:23 GMT permalink

Marking change.

It’s that time of the year when you look up and realise that summer has all but slipped away. There is a mist over the fields in the morning, and although still mild the heat has gone out of the middle of the day. But it’s still just about summer. A ‘quarter season’. A liminal time.

There are a lot of small rituals and signs associated with the coming of autumn and I have my own list of minor indicators that provide a coda to another summer: the end of the cricket season, preparing my commuting bike for the damp mornings ahead and a family walk out along the edge of the village collecting blackberries (and sloes). 

There’s been some bigger changes too over recent week: a new niece, a new start for Violet and maybe for Emma as well. Everything the same, constant change.

Inspired by the idea that temporal landmarks are important, it feels like these familial rituals need more space and emphasis. The sloes are already in the gin, waiting for another occasion to mark. 

Tags: words family summer walk blackberry time seasons

2014-09-14 10:55:58 GMT permalink

Exciting times.

Tags: work newjob wolffolins

2014-08-05 17:25:00 GMT permalink

Some things I learnt at R/GA...

A few weeks ago I left R/GA after nearly 4 years, working first as a Technical Team Lead and then as a Technical Director. I’ve learned 1000s of tiny lessons and quite a few big ones over the last few years. Here’s some key ones.

1. Multi-discipline collaboration from day 1
Complex (digital) projects require talented people from many disciplines. Casting the right team can be a challenge, but once on the ground (usually at R/GA in a war room), collaboration needs to be rapid, open and without (too much) ego.

2. Code scamps (aka prototypes) are essential
Just about working software is the best way of explaining an idea. If you can sketch in code, getting something up and running no matter how hacky then you’re moving forward. The things you learn by doing this early are nearly always invaluable as long as you’re prepared to throw away more than you keep - being over invested in the scamp is going to get in the way of iterating.

3. Really good QA helps produce really good products
The internet is everywhere and on everything (Brad Frost, also ex-rga has some great slides about this). I’ve worked on projects where the QA engineer is testing on 20 devices. Obviously there are real benefits in test automation, but there’s no shortcuts - at somepoint somebody is going to need to tap through your app on all the devices, again and again and again.

4. Work smart and work hard
The industry has a long hours culture and sometimes working hard (late) is the way to a briliant product. But it’s not the only way. From a technology point of view investing in smart work; automation, auto-scaling, developer tools that work is way better than just staying late.

5. Access to tools and permissions matter
The battle for better tools and services is constant. If you constantly put a barrier in front of getting things done then you kill the speed at which innovation can happen and in an agency environment slow projects die a slow death. If it takes a 48 hour helpdesk response to get the CI box back online or multiple paper based forms to spin up a cloud service then the velocity of your crack innovation team is being severly hampered.

6. Location doesn’t have to be important
There’s a clamour to have EVERYONE IN THE WAR ROOM ALL THE TIME. But collaboration doesn’t really work like that. Clearly facetime matters, and at the right stage of the project it really is worth having everyone sat in the same room. But having highly motivated, talented people pulling in the same direction is way more important than having them sat in the same office (or even timezone).

Tags: work rga agency lessons retrospective

2014-08-05 17:16:17 GMT permalink

Last day at R/GA London

Today is my last day at R/GA. It’s been an intense and entertaining 3.5 years. Everyone says, “the people here are amazing”. But it’s true R/GA people are talented, hardworking and (borderline) alcoholics.

I remember a couple of days after I started having to be part of a sprint review for a major web app project. There seemed to be hundreds of people on the call from all over the world plus a ragtag bunch of us in London. The review went OK, but it seemed like madness - the ambition of the project was unbelievably high and I couldn’t work out how we were going to deliver the work or get the various random people on the phone to agree about anything. I really wasn’t sure that I’d made the right decision to leave my cosy client side tech role.

But somehow we did it. The work was hard but the results were awesome, even if perhaps the client didn’t quite understand what we’d built - which is probably true for most of my R/GA projects.

What I will remember most fondly are those times when we aimed high, put our foot on the gas and delivered something that seemed almost impossible on day one.

There’s way too many people to call out individually but a big thanks to Patrick and the tech team here in London who’s hard work and talent made me look good on a daily basis and in particular the project teams on Pearson and Getty.

Thanks - it’s been fun.

This is a slightly extended version of my ‘all London’ email to the fantastic folks at R/GA London.

Tags: work rga goodbye future email

2014-07-18 21:56:00 GMT permalink

A trip to Le Tour

Yorkshire. Huge crowds. Good weather. Great riding. Good company and a long ride.  

For the many British pro-riders who didn’t make the tour (or those that did and then didn’t get past the first week), the 2014 Tour de France is probably one to forget. But for British based cycling fans the 101st edition will stay long in the memory. 

Allez!

Tags: cycling tourdefrance yorkshire leeds grappa hebdenbridge family summer 2014

2014-07-11 23:20:00 GMT permalink

Your API is your brand

Recently I was asked to take a look at an API as part of an advertising awards entry that we were making. As with most awards entries the assessment I was making wasn’t just about the functional elements such as the available methods, approach to content negotiation and compliance with open standards, but also the way the API was presented. Was there good documentation and tools as well as an active an easy to engage developer community.

All those elements were there, but there was something else less tangible and probably more important that I was really looking for. What did the API really say about the brand? This assessment is more subtle, but gets to the heart of how and why an organisation is choosing to expose services to third-parties.

- How does the sign-up process work
- Can I have a limited number of API calls without having to sign-up, so that I can test if this is for me 
- Which programming languages are the code examples available in (the choice of languages can say a huge amount about the brand)
- How often is the API updated, is this a live project
- Is there an easy way to submit bugs or feature requests
- Which developer tools are being used to share code and examples (can I do a pull request on GitHub?)

The most important area to understand is the value that the API is offering to developers and third-parties, and by extension what is the expected return value the business can hope to receive.

Empowering developers though your API is a form of co-development with people you might not know so well. Choosing the playing field (the services) carefully is an important way of shaping the development direction.

There’s clearly an assumption within some organisations that “having an API” (public or private) is enough, but just showing up is no longer a winning strategy. The way companies engage the developer community is a pure expression of branding through doing (show, don’t tell). If done in the right way it empowers others to realise your brand expression through their own art, copy and code. Which seems like something that is worth investing in.

Tags: work branding api words awards

2014-06-18 10:23:00 GMT permalink

Missing (these islands).

Saturday morning, doing the things you have to do (buying clothes for the children in Milton Keynes) and the dissonance with our recent trip to Coigach is rising up in my consciousness and beating me over the head. Robert Macfarlane, in his brilliant debut proposed the concept of ‘Mountains of the Mind’. The Summer Isles are firmly embedded as one of my haunting mental islands. 

Tags: scotland coigach photo islands view sea

2014-05-27 12:31:40 GMT permalink

Short climbs. Rough roads. 

Tags: cycling scotland coigach achiltibuie polbain

2014-05-12 09:18:49 GMT permalink

There’s always another island.

Looking west from Haunn, Mull I can see the island of Coll across the water. The weather always looks slightly better over on Coll, the sunset brighter, the beaches a golden streak across the dark island.

And beyond Coll, the Uists, connected, almost to the conjoined isles of Harris and Lewis. There is always another island. 

Which creates a slightly uneasy feeling, an unrest. A glance at the ferry times, thinking about the logistics. In the same way some people feel compelled to cycle up alpine passes, bag Munros or tick off indian provinces, the very existence of un-visited Hebridean islands creates some kind of implied experience vacuum. 

Until perhaps you reach St. Kilda, the edge of the world, just Greenland to keep it a distant company. 

But this is really a flat earth approach to island hopping, where the horizon represents the edge of the known world. A spherical planet surely means that there is always another island, near, far or unreachable. 

Tags: scotland holiday mull coll islands hebrides

2014-05-12 09:10:43 GMT permalink

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