2014-09-14 10:55:58 GMT permalink
2014-09-11 20:20:02 GMT permalink
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.
2014-06-18 10:23:00 GMT permalink
2013-10-22 16:11:00 GMT permalink
Almost every day there’s some new buzz, hype and occasional factual statement about self driving cars. The intersection (pun intended) of technology, user experience and transport policy is an interesting place.
From a technology perspective it feels like autonomous vehicles could be the equivalent of the space race for our times. As a side effect of getting people on the moon, NASA is also credited with inventing everything from Nike Air to better dentistry. Whilst the self-driving car industry is still in its infancy, innovations in detailed mapping, artificial intelligence, motion detection, capacity planning, battery technology and machine learning (to name but a few) have already started to have a significant impact on the technology we use everyday.
But transport and mobility matter a lot more than as a way to get a more accurate vacuum cleaner. The relationship people have with cars is complicated. Much of what has been written about vehicle ownership, usage and urban planning doesn’t take into account the irrational choices that people make around transport everyday. How autonomous vehicles fit into real world scenarios is going to be complicated, and based on how politicians handle most rapid technology change, I’m not optimistic about how smoothly the polity will adapt.
In many ways the motor car has been one of the most liberating inventions of the past 150 years. If I was so inclined, tomorrow morning I could pile up the car and drive to the South of France (or more likely the west coast of Scotland) with a level of ease and freedom not possible 100 years or so ago. Yet, despite having a car I don’t really self identify as a driver. It’s something I do, but I’m more likely to say I’m a cyclist or walker. But I’m conscious for many people driving is a very important part of their identify, and for some people the self-driving car represents a challenge to the idea of what it means to be human.
As with most complex technology problems, it’s easier to get to grips with them if you start by trying to build your own version. A self-driving car is a bit of a leap, but the next step for the location aware drinks trolley I build last year is probably autonomy. Even if I don’t get as far as a universal product, a beer wagon that can navigate my office is probably a pretty good place to start.
2017-01-30 22:28:23 GMT permalink
2017-01-15 00:31:58 GMT permalink
2016-08-23 21:03:58 GMT permalink
2016-03-22 13:49:36 GMT permalink
Last week R/GA London had it’s first Make Day - two days of creative and technical exploration, in some ways done just for the joy of being able to make things. I was astonished by the diversity and quality of the work that people produced. Russell, has posted a round up of the different projects, which ranged from a (working) face recognition system running on Windows 8 (which isn’t even publicly available) to some marmalade. For my part I worked as part of team building a “tea and coffee roulette web app / game”.
The concept itself was pretty simple - make a webapp that would allow you to join a tea round, the twist being that the last person to set a preference and complete a simple task would have to make the drinks for everyone else. A quick 10 minute brainstorm and one whiteboard diagram later and we were underway, with @sanderkuypers doing the visual design and the rest of us (@benoitgrelard, @loopdream and myself) quickly began hacking together some working software.
By the end of the two days we had a working game, that looked great and actually worked - user and device registration, automated email (warning users that the game was about to start), a countdown, simple game (track and field style) and notification to the winners and users - all in real time (via web sockets).
Apart from being a break from our usual client projects and lots of fun it was good to build something a little different - although we didn’t stray too far from our core competency, we did try a few new things. Russell and the management team set some pretty loose (open?) goals for make day, but as the project progressed it was clear that one of the main motivating factors of our team was to deliver working software - which is a pretty healthy team ethic.
I’ll post a link to the source code and a working example once it’s online.
– Follow Up –
Dave suggested that one of the factors for the (relative) success of the project was that the team comprised a variety of skill sets. Whilst this is true, it did come about pretty much by accident.
2011-12-11 21:48:00 GMT permalink
It’s October. Unseasonably hot. The ‘rec’ busy with the usual early morning Sunday traffic. Tired looking fathers push energetic toddlers on the swings and dog walkers hurl mauled tennis balls vast distances with the aid of semi-prosthetic tools. The sound of the Sunday morning footballers can be heard from over the hedge that separates the cricketers 'oval’ - though in reality the cricket ground is far from a shape that can be easily described by conventional geometry - from the more rugged footy pitches on the far side of the rec.
But on this bright, late summer early autumn morning there’s a another sound; a mower is working one end of the tired looking square. On the other side a scarifier is churning away - scarring the wickets with it's metallic teeth, and tearing at the turf that is seen, by some villagers (if not the local foxes) as semi-sacred ground.
For Stewkley 1st XI the season is over, a slightly misleading name, as there’s only one team on a Saturday these days. By most measures the season has been one of mainly downs, with a second successive relegation only avoided by a rare win on the final day of the season. Next year another assault on the four counties div 3 title awaits. But that’s along way off. For now there’s some work to be done, putting the wicket to bed.
A group of men are trying to coax the ancient petrol mower back to life. It’s shed some critical bolt into the grass box, a grass box which has already been emptied into a huge pile of cuttings on the far side of the boundary. There’s much cursing and encouragement as the 'old girl’ is primed and the hand start is repeatedly ripped with huge effort and little success. A quirk of the device is that each 'start’, false or otherwise, requires the entire starting mechanism to be rebuilt by hand. A process that seems to take an eternity. Eventually there’s a rumbling cough and the green goddess sparks into life and trundles off down the wicket. Despite her age and infirmity, the cut of the whirling blades is neat and efficient.
The square hasn’t seen many big score this year. Often a little 'green’ and far from flat (the ordinance survey could run a training course identifying all the ridges that run over the 12 or so strips)), visiting teams know that anything over 150 is going to be a potentially winning score. Teams who reach 3 figures batting first always fancy their chances. Especially if there’s been some overnight rain (there are no covers) or it’s a cloudy atmospheric day. This isn’t a ground for the batting purist, but for the 'grafting’ batsmen who plays the ball as late as possible.
Yet it isn’t the worst wicket in the league and the 'rec’ certainly isn’t a bad place to play your cricket. On a good Saturday the benches and chairs by the squat brick pavilion are filled with spectators, never short of encouragement and, sometimes direct advice. Surrounded by trees - with a couple encroaching within the boundary at the far end (only 4 runs should you clip one of those with a lofted drive) and sitting on the edge of the village, it’s a sometime bucolic scene. The (inattentive) fielder can watch buzzards and red kites hunt in the adjacent fields and tractors buzz along the Soulbury Road, a short hit over the boundary.
Today though there are no spectators or men in white. Instead on the edge of the 'artificial’ there’s a large pile of top soil and a bag of grass seed being mixed up, ready to top dress the square. Perhaps as an offering to the cricketing deities for more runs next year - and certainly for more consistent bounce. Though perhaps some of the bowlers are less sincere in their devotions. Wickets seem easier to come by when you don’t know if the batsmen is unsure if a length ball will shoot onto his the toe or rear up to under his nose.
The mower falls silent again, and whilst a committee of elders try and formulate a plan for one more start the younger members of the work party begin an impromptu game on the edge of the cut strips. A old tennis ball is found and a broken shovel commandeered for a bat. There’s some edgy drives, the weight of the blade and the post season rustiness combining to give catching practice to the close circle of fielders. The old machine is back in action and the game breaks up to scatter the soil, seed and odd stone over the freshly manicured ground.
And then it’s done. The rope is up around the table, suspended strangely at head height from metal poles - a test for for those wending their way home across the 'rec’ from a late night session in The Swan. There’s time for a quick beer in the pavilion bar, the last one of the cricketing year and then it’s done. The wicket has been put to bed. The season is over. Until the next one.
2011-10-24 12:32:00 GMT permalink