Category Archives: Stubs



About two years ago, I wrote this proposal – a concept for a marketplace which matches charities with talent, to support them with their digital and communication needs. I called it Probonobo, a dirty portmanteau of Pro-Bono and a joke about an infinite number of monkeys.

Apart from the fact that most of my ideas are based upon puns, the infinite monkeys aspect is really important – an infinite number of monkeys may well produce Shakespeare at some point, but charities cannot afford the (infinity-1) failed iterations until success appears – it cannot be random, it has to be well directed, because people’s free time is valuable, and charity’s work is important.

I’m posting the idea here for two reasons:

a) All good ideas which have sat in a drawer for longer than six months should be free and public, so a busy originator doesn’t become a reason for the idea to not be realised

b) Re-airing the idea gives me some focus and reflection upon what was good about it, and what was too complex. I’m learning in recent years that simplicity over all else is critical. If you’re trying to get across three points, reduce it to one, and start from there.

The idea is great, but it takes too much to get off the ground. The initial idea could be as simple as “create a place where briefs can be shared and improved”. The delivery piece can come later, the heart of the idea is about getting to better briefs (or rather the right objectives).

So, inspired by a conversation over dinner on Thursday night, I’m airing the idea publicly, and this might lead to something happening.


Twitter for Strangers

I have a growing sense of unease about what I do and who I follow.

Reading introspectively about what our industry does, new technology, new applications of that technology, new behaviours – it all feels like a meta-exercise.

I don’t want to read about what my peers are doing.

I want to read about what people I don’t know are doing.

I need a type of twitter for people who I don’t follow.

Every day, my feed would be created of new, interesting, passionate folk, who I’ve not met and don’t know what they do, talking about their day, and their work, in every field of life.

Imagine it like a magazine or podcast, with that wonderful editorial curation that brings you new ideas, but rather than long form articles, just their passing thoughts and whimsy.

An exercise in serendipity perhaps.

Challenging Meetings

So, despite the myth that new parents have no time, I built a thing last night.

After this conversation with @malbonster and @katiedreke :

… I built this last night:
(it works best on a smartphone, like iOS)

It’s a meeting challenge app – open it during a meeting, and at random times, you’ll get presented with a challenge, for instance, drop a completely made up abbreviation and use it like everyone should know it, or hum for longer than 30 seconds. You only get points if you don’t get called out on it.

There aren’t many challenges in there yet, let me know if you’d like any particular ones adding.
You can add the app to your home screen on iOS in case you need quick access to it.

It’s all clientside tech, so you can just grab the source and fork it. Let me know if you do anything interesting with it. Also, it was very rapidly built (in around one hour) using divshot to throw together a twitter bootstrap layout, and then basic javascript to get the engine itself work.

Have fun, but don’t blame me if you lose your clients’ confidence.

DR Codes

This is a thought that’d been rattling around in my head for a few years, which I want to try and crack this year.

Each agency I’ve worked in, there has been some form of tea making culture. Every day, at varying times during the day, someone will offer to make a brew.
Small teams of good friends know how to make each others drinks, but larger teams struggle to remember, and if you’re offering to make a large round, you have to remember quite a few permutations of the basic bases: Drink Type, Sugar Count, Strength/Milk Ratio, Foam, Steep Time, and so on.

At de-construct, we had a number of solutions to remind brewers how the team liked their drink. These were pieces of beautiful design which presented the instructions to make the drink in a graphical format, printed as a large poster in the kitchen area. The first one, I think was done by Alex Griffin, mostly in response to me accidentally putting salt in a cup of tea instead of sugar (they look the same, it wasn’t my fault).

There are so many combinations though, and people change their desires frequently – I’m drinking more tea than I used to for instance, and some times I need sugar, other times I don’t. If you’re making me coffee though, its simple – freshly ground black filter coffee please.

So posters only work so far, and don’t solve the problem of remember who wanted a drink either.
How often have you scribbled down some hieroglyphs like MK: T2S, SB: C1SB, KL: C2 to keep track of who asked for what?

So the idea of a DR code came to me a few years back when looking to create a new poster for a space: A graphical marker which explains how someone wants their drink, that can be read by both humans and machines. A QR code for drinks.

A human looking at the code could easily see the drink’s make up: drink type, sugars, milk, etc. A computer could read even more information, and build that into applications. A mobile app could easily capture what drinks people wanted, and who wanted them – perhaps the DR codes are stored against the address book entry, and the app logs the ratio of making the drink to receiving the drink (to catch out people who never step up to the kettle), and that data could be aggregated to show the consumption habits of a business, and improve stock ordering accordingly.

So I’ve started work on creating the code itself, a human and machine readable visual device which holds information on a drink’s make up.

There are TR Codes (Tea Requirement codes) and CR Codes (Coffee Requirement) so far, and I’m still tweaking the meanings (for instance, subtleties between ristrettos and espressos, or milk/foam ratios for drinks like a latte vs a capp’).

There’s potentially colour to explore too, to expand the drink types. I’m pretty sure it could extend to drinks beyond the office, cocktails for instance might work based upon ratios.

Once the DR Code works, I’ll look at how we can use some simple Javascript to recognise the icon, and act upon it in some way.
I’d also love to look at non square / non digital looking versions, using perhaps pie chart type visuals and colour.

There are bunch of references which have influenced this so far:
The work Mat and I did on CLARITY*
The espresso field guide (and versions of that)
Tea over IP

Email Stats

Playing around with Google Apps Scripts again today.

In theory, the image above is a live* representation of my inbox: the number of emails, the age of the oldest response, and the average age of the oldest response.

I tend to leave emails in my inbox until dealt with, so they’re either responded to immediately and archived, or left until I’ve done the task.

I know its not a good GTD technique, but it might create something interesting visually.

I expect to see:

– Email dips on Fridays (as I’m not at Carat on Fridays so can get through my personal tasks)
– Steady growth throughout the day, and dips at the end of the day
– Average durations of response only display things that linger, not things that are immediately dealt with

* live = updated every hour