Country Life

In general on November 19, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Living in the countryside is great!

Just this evening I’ve had to close the gates to our drive as a stray horse was eating the lawn of our neighbours garden – not a problem we were likely to have in our previous life. The beautiful sunsets that I have the privilege to witness on a regular basis help get things into perspective; but one of the best changes is the absence of distractions. Without a commute and lots of unnecessary rituals, you tend to focus on the task at hand.

So although there’s still lots to do (have only been in Ireland for just over three weeks), some patterns are starting to emerge. The days have been busier than expected – mainly attempting to keep my first client happy. The nights have been good – sleeping well which is aided by fresh sea air, no commute and being busy during the day. But best of all has been the time to think.

Thinking has mainly focussed on what has prevented the information industry making more progress over the twenty-five years that I have been involved, and what opportunities exist to make a difference to how content is perceived by the people who create and use it. The main conclusion I’ve come to is that publishers are too fixated on technology, and not enough on understanding their content.

This view will inform the new services and tools that are needed for the venture that I am building up to. Software tools should help demystify content rather than increase the distance between the technologists and the content curators. My goal is to make it easier for publishers to make informed decisions about ho to invest in their content. To make it possible to understand how content can be enhanced and used in straightforward ways.

It’s taken a long time but a name for the trading entity, that will help publishers and users, has emerged. Once I’ve registered it with the relevant organizations, there will be a commotion around its launch. That should be before Christmas and hopefully be a portent for a busy 2014.


In general on September 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm

A few months ago my family made the decision to move from the UK to Ireland. The opportunity presented itself, and, since we (wife,  daughter and myself) all love being in Ireland, we jointly decided it was the right thing to do.

Having made the decision there were a few details to work through: a school for our daughter was top priority, and it proved to be straightforward (although there are some big changes for her, but she seems to be coping fine). My wife had a straightforward transition, as her company are now setting up an office in Ireland.

Which just left me. Having committed to a house, and with my family already moved, change is required. So I am starting my own business, offering consulting on publishing technology strategy and implementation. I’m looking at what I can do to help businesses achieve their goals. And that’s where you can help.

For the last six years, my employer has been the UK’s national standards body. So my recent experience is related to standardization processes and the commercialization of standards content. In my current role of Technology Strategist and Data Architect, I’ve automated marketing campaigns, project managed website software development, augmented content in PDF files, designed schemas, written data extraction routines, created quality assurance processes and represented the company in a range of international forums.

In moving to rural Ireland, many of the same activities that I do in urban England can still be done. There will be differences: much more time will be spent on telecommunications than currently. But there won’t be a regular commute; so that will compensate. I’m available for work from 23 October – so if you would like to discuss current or future issues you need help with, please get in touch (via eneylon on twitter initially, but there will be other channels shortly).

For those of you interested in where we are moving to, here is the Google map view of our new town:

On making a clock

In general on October 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Early this year, a clock in the window at Heals furniture store caught my daughter’s eye. In the moment, I committed to making the clock – a promise that has resulted in a voyage of discovery. My initial focus was on a physical implementation, but in designing a fascia for laser cutting, the use of proportional font caused me to consider writing the clock in software. No server side code was written in the making of this clock – something which has caused me to consider more carefully the client-side capabilities that exist in modern web browsers. [after writing the web implementation I found that there is already instructions on instructables on how to make this clock]

In the Summer, at Over the Air, I knocked out a location-based encryption tool during the judging of the hack competitions. Whether this is a good idea is debatable (the idea was to get kids to understand the importance of a shared secret in understanding ciphers which could be expressed as a treasure hunt around the grounds of Bletchley Park), but again the solution was a self contained webpage (handling both encryption and decryption as a symmetric operation). So with modern web clients being both powerful and capable, is the traditional focus on server-side capabilities misplaced?

Back in the physical-object space, the clock’s electronics proved trivial (well with an arduino the programming task was simple), but the real problem became power consumption and reproducibility (since it became obvious that I might want to make more than one clock). From being a craft problem it has become one of manufacturing and finding the right tools and materials to approach the, as yet unclear, demand for possibly many copies of the clock.

So the virtual and real design spaces both pose questions about how best to approach the selection of appropriate tools at a time when costs and capabilities are shifting rapidly …