My year at Berg

After a year at Berg as a Creative Technologist, I have now left and, while I remember it all, here’s some of what I’ve been doing for the past year.

  • Designing and developing new publications for Little Printer. These are all tiny websites, of varying complexity, mine written in Ruby and Sinatra (I didn’t know any Ruby this time a year ago, so I’ve learned a lot on that front). Among my favourites: Your Best Tweets; Gmail Stats; Google Analytics (Daily and Weekly); This At There, art/design shows opening and closing in London soon.

  • Implementing the ability to programme “stories” for Little Printers, multi-day mini-narratives that change the device’s face’s features. This was one of those simple-sounding but surprisingly complicated systems to make. For me, anyway. My first experience of Ruby on Rails, so more good learning.

  • Creating multi-language example Little Printer publications. We had one or two examples to show developers how to make these but I wanted to remove a hurdle for anyone who could already code but wasn’t familiar with the Ruby and Sinatra we used. I updated or created three examples (Hello World, Miniseries, Push API), making each available in Ruby and Sinatra, Python and Flask, or PHP. Writing each version idiomatically, but also in a way that they could be directly compared (you can switch the language fragments in those pages) was extremely satisfying.

  • Making the PHP Little Printer miniseries template to enable more people to create the simplest kind of Little Printer publications. Because there are a lot of people with good ideas who can cope with editing values in a PHP file, and FTPing things to a shared server, but are never going to learn git, frameworks, Heroku, etc. It was great to see new publications appear as a result of this.

  • Making LPChart, a sort of wrapper for d3.js, tailored for making simple charts in Little Printer publications. Although it was abstracted from work I’d already done for a couple of my publications, and was interesting to create, in retrospect this was probably too much work on something not enough people needed yet; my fault.

  • As part of those things above, I wrote a lot of developer documentation. Doing that is always an odd combination of incredibly tedious and very satisfying. The work itself is laborious: trying to cover everything, being explicit and unambiguous, but also being readable and useful. It’s also extremely hard to tell how good a job you’ve done, as by the time you finish you’re far too close to see it objectively.

  • A bunch of standard development of websites, generally using Ruby and Sinatra, Bootstrap and SASS, and then moving some of that into a Ruby on Rails app. I wrote about some of the process on the Berg engineering blog. At the time of writing, and are the result of this work.

  • A bit of being an Agile delivery manager. This didn’t last long but, while I doubt I’d want to be a project/delivery manager full-time, it was fascinating. Trying to figure out good ways of surfacing what work was happening, what should be happening, how long it might take, how to get from big ideas about various projects to implementable tasks… I only scratched the surface but I think we made progress, and I enjoyed the challenge of doing something different to the usual internet typing.

That’s most of it; a busy year. I’ll miss a lot of people but it’s time to move on.

31 Mar 2014 at Twitter

31 Mar 2014 in Links