Category Archives: prototyping

Learning: Prototyping

I’m thinking about how I do what I do and was going to launch into what I’m already learning from this project, but then realised that there’s something that should come first, because it’s the reason I’m doing it this way in the first place.

I try to work on a cycle of “Have an idea – try it out – see what happens – see what ideas it evokes – try one of them out”… etc  If I’m lucky, along the way I will get to make something useful that people want to take part in, or pay for. 

What I used to do, when I worked in a big organisation was have an idea and then say to people around me “Have a think about this and tell me if it will work” and if enough people thought it would work we’d do it.  Of course there were lots of other people having ideas and asking me whether I thought they would work too.  The result of that was that we did relatively little except think and have meetings about whether things might work.

There are two main reasons why I can’t work like that any more.  One is that I don’t sit in a big organisation with lots of people paid to do thinking.  The other is that I just don’t believe that thinking that much before you do something will tell you as much as just doing something.

That’s why I treat everything as a prototype for something else. 

We’re often told that we have to have a vision and to hold onto the delivery of that vision no matter what.  I see it a little differently. 

The trap I try to avoid is thinking that the something else you’re working towards is more important than the thing you’re doing right now.

Tuttle started as a prototype for a social coworking space.  It turned out that it worked very well as a meetup in it’s own right and branched out into our consulting work, my own social art practice and arguably paved the way for C4CC.

So when I started thinking about this year’s American trip and got the idea from Al to also have journals travelling the country alongside me, I had a choice between thinking really hard about how to do that and just trying it out here beforehand to see what I learned.  And now I feel like I’m learning lots, more quickly than expected, that I’d otherwise have had to wait for until I was on the road myself.

What’s the alternative?  I could have written the instructions and then run a workshop (subject to people turning up) to simulate the exercise and run through what people thought might come up.  But how long would it take to set that up? And would the thinking really improve the experience?  Or is the point of the exercise the things that we learn along the way?

Originally posted on Journal Racing

Why I’m not in Seesmic at the moment

Writing that as a title makes it sound much more dramatic than what I want to say. However, I wanted to explain the reasons for me not showing up so much in seesmic of late. In particular, I wanted to make it clear that it’s not a negative sign – I’m still using it, I’m still in love with the people and the concept, I’m still part of the seesmic community, I’m just not around very much for now. It comes down to three things:

1. There’s a limit to how much alpha testing one can do.

This is not a fault – it’s just how it is. I’ve used and loved the crappy, buggy, bloated, adorable, prototype proof of concept thing they knocked up, but my legs are just tired from using bicycle pedals to fly an aeroplane. I need it to move on (lighter, better organised, social functionality) before I can use it again regularly. This isn’t to say that others shouldn’t have a go while the CTO (who never sleeps) and his band of code monkeys build the next version – if you get an invite, I strongly urge you to jump in, ride it, meet the fantastic people who are there, enjoy it, love it like I have, find the holes, work out for yourself what works and doesn’t work – it’s great fun. Trouble is…

2. My kit’s crap

The combination of said “bloated, adorable…etc” and my little PC with it’s pathetic 256MB of RAM (yes, I’ve ordered some more) mean that I really can’t do much in seesmic before the whole thing slows down to a crawl. In case you haven’t got the message, I do love seesmic so much that I’ve honestly considered setting up a dedicated seesmic box, stripped down to a lightweight OS and browser just so that I could continue being an active participant around this social media kitchen table rather than the old grandpa who sticks his head around the door occasionally to ask you kids to quieten down. I may still do this if I can find some geek-time this weekend, but the truth is…

3. I’ve other fish to fry

One of my main motivating factors this week has been ensuring that Mike Butcher doesn’t get in a position to do to me and the Tuttle Club/Social Media Café what he did to Paul Birch and Co-minded. We talked a lot about it in the last part of the year and our first prototyping meeting was great, but I need to maintain the momentum. My most frequently asked question is “When are you going to open?” My current best answer is “This year, preferably by the summer” I want to have a better answer to that – and more importantly to actually deliver. Again, for the time being, that (and bread and butter work to keep me living in the luxury I’ve come to expect, oh and playing my ukulele) has to come first, so time around the virtual kitchen table is limited [unless of course you want to come to a commercial arrangement, Loïc 🙂 ]

So, in the meantime, don’t stay up too late talking and don’t be late for work because you’re nattering over breakfast, but have fun without me.

Tuttle Club First Prototype

Yesterday I was knocked out that not only had 20-ish people signed up to come talk about the Tuttle Club AKA London Social Media Café (and bring their own coffee and a donation to help pay for the room) but they pretty much all turned up and treated the idea seriously like it’s really going to happen. At the risk of over-thanking, which is probably impossible since today is Thanksgiving anyway, thank you again for your participation, contribution and general good humour.

I put up a page on the wiki for people to write about it and link to what they thought if they wrote/filmed/recorded/drew something about the day. However all I did was to list the names of people who have come.

So if you were there – go here and say something about your experience of the session and what you’re going to do next. Please do also tell everyone you know about what a cool time you had and what you liked about it.

If you weren’t there but are still interested in what happened – go to the same place and have a look. If when you get there, there’s still nothing but a list of names, find someone on the list that you know and use every bullying technique you have at your disposal to get them to open up about it online.