Thoughts on being creative. #reasonsto day one…

He probably didn’t know it, but Paul Trani set the tone. “[I don't like the term Creative...it's used too readily]“. You know what Paul, I couldn’t agree with you more. Everybody wants to be creative like everybody wants to be a geek (and there is another word which is rapidly devaluing). From the vacuous numptys on The Apprentice to every Dalston Douche that emin their way into their 15 mins…creativity is perhaps the most overrated word in the lexicon.

And yet, here I am, sitting at a conference called Reasons to Be Creative, bearing the lofty title “Creative technologist”…sitting, in fact, in the exact same seat I was two years ago when this conference was still broadly a tech conference for a now almost indefensible tech. I said once before that conferences like this are creative oxygen for me, this one in particular. I don’t know if John has been paying attention but their logo now shows a recharged battery, which, after a pretty hefty couple of months at the agency coalface, couldn’t come at a better time.

My own creativity has wavered, this I know. At the risk of giving a standard parent-and-manager whinge, there just aren’t hours in the day for the work I want to do in the face of the work I must do. Repeated throughout the day, by Grant Skinner, by Amit Pitaru, by Carlos Ulloa (who needs a separate blog post soon), is the need to play, to explore and to create. It’s something I’ve talked about at length and a central part of the culture of my team at work. I will say it again in the Elevator Pitch I’ll give at this conference in two days time. But now, sitting on the pisshead’s train back to London after marvelling at the ease with which Stefan Sagmeister once again makes being a world-renowned artist and creative seem, I *know*, really *KNOW* that I’ve been coasting, and that I’m not nearly as creative as I would like to think (or project) I am, not through a lack of ideas or skill perhaps, but because I simply haven’t picked up a tool and contributed to something.

It’s the thing I love about Reasons.to – it simultaneously lets you feel like you can achieve anything you want to, whilst at the same time, reality checking you that having the thought is not enough. You must do. Dominic Wilcox (whose work I did not know but instantly fell in love with) kept sketchbooks and littered his talk with cartoonish inventions that stick in the mind more somehow than his considered (and presumably well funded) work. The flow of ideas was irresistible…ideas of all scales from throwaway gags to incredibly emotive and thoughtful pieces of great depth.

I made some resolutions to myself today about the gulf that exists between having an idea and seeing it executed, even if that’s just a sketch, or an outline or a snippet of code or a todo list. It’s not difficult to find Reasons To Be Creative. It’s quite another thing to do something about it.

Reasons to be Creative (and to blog…)

Hey. Long time no post. My bad, sometimes real life just kind of pops up and diverts all attention. Since my last post I’ve become a dad for the 3rd time, launched a pretty epic responsive site for British Gas and built a great development team here at Grand Union who are already doing me proper proud. In my drafts folder I’ve got posts on the subject of appropriate use of technology (a pro-QR rant actually believe it or not), the perils of ajax SEO and some thoughts on responsive which I will get around to finishing up and publishing shortly. In fact I was thinking of joining Stef’s Sunday Post initiative, the only problem being is that Sunday’s are just about the worst time for me to do anything productive.

So, one small bit of news just to make this blog post vaguely worth reading, excuses aside.  Actually it’s a pretty big bit of news since it’s fulfilling a huge goal for me – I’m going to be delivering an Elevator Pitch at Reasons to be Creative this September.  RTBC was born from the ashes of Flash On The Beach which I’ve blogged about extensively before in these pages.  It’s been a highwatermark for me for years – solid creative oxygen, reviving my spirit and reminding me why I’m in this industry.  So I’m very proud indeed to be involved.  I’ll be doing a short 3 min talk, alongside my fellow elevator pitchers, on the subject of 3d printing and geek dream fulfilment!  It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently which I’m hoping to expand into a bigger talk later in the year.

I urge you to attend though – not to see me – but to see  the likes of Memo Akten, Helicar and Lewis, Jay Eliot Stocks and Remy Sharp (I say begrudingly, I’m still not sure I’ve forgiven him for his blinkered anti-flash talk at fotb a few years ago…he is a bloody amazing speaker though) in the lovely confines of the Brighton dome.

See you there!

An introduction to Twitter, and other slideshares

Have started uploaded various presentations to Slideshare this week.  here’s an oldy but goodie from a couple of years ago – an internal presentation I gave at Sky for a team that was not well versed in social media but, like most of us, under pressure to understand and use it better.  This was not aimed as a piece of strategy at all, just a high level introduction to the service and how to get involved with it.  Others new to Twitter may find it useful.

 

You can find various other presentations by me at my Slideshare page.

Flash – A call for sanity

or, I can’t believe I still have to discuss this shit…

Herein, are some notes, a slidedeck and some source code relating to a talk I gave for Academy Class this week, regarding Flash’s place in the web and beyond.  I was driven to put the talk together due to the sheer amount of misinformation, misrepresentation and outright idiocy that seems to still surround the use of Flash as a rich media technology.  The fact that we are still having to have this conversation depresses me hugely and I find the constant placing of ideologies (like open – not a synonym for ‘better’ btw) ahead of a sensible assessment of the appropriate technology to deliver a project successfully really tiring.  The lecture was well attended and the post-talk debate stimulating and balanced so I do believe that there is still a life for Flash.  Key points to take away:

1. Flash, and any other plugin runtime, exists to augment the browser’s native capabilities uniformly across available platforms.  If the browser can handle it, then there is no need to use flash.

2. HTML5 development is NOT stable across all the platforms that a typical commercial build needs to target.  As developers, we expend a huge amount of resource in hacking legacy support into our web applications.  The most stable code is always optimised for it’s runtime – if the runtime (i.e. browser) is fragmented, then it’s very hard to do this.  Rich media builds are often complex and Flash should be regarded as a viable technology for rich media heavy lifting.

3. Not everything has to be built for mobile and not everything should.  Mobile is an inherently different use case to desktop browsing and ‘compatibility’ is not a virtue in of itself.  Know when to support it, when to degrade down to it, when to branch the experience completely for mobile, and when to ignore it.  The lack of mobile support for flash is a red herring.  It’s not built for it and that’s ok.  Desktop experiences are still the most consumed digital content by some margin.  Mobile web browsing does not, and probably should not in many cases, need to be a rich experience.  We have apps for that!

4. As the browser’s capabilities have evolved, so have the flash platform’s.  It is vital that the developer community place pressure on ‘bad’ legacy flash code, particularly in rich media advertising which is still largely built to old specifications, and to educate and advocate for the platform’s capabilities and best practise.

I hope that this will be the last pro-flash post I have to make.  I hope that we can appreciate the multi-faceted toolbox of frameworks and runtimes that we use to create our fantastic medium objectively.  I hope that I don’t have to do this all again next year…

Slideshare deck
PDF with notes coming soon
Source code for the air mobile demonstration  (I’ll add some more comments etc soon)

10 things I have learned working for Sky

So there it is, a little shy of 7 years under my belt at that most divisive of entities, the corporate media empire.  My time at Sky has been characterised by a mixture of emotion – huge frustration, great passion, an organisation that is capable of the most amazing leaps of imagination and sharp business acumen and yet cannot address it’s own, relatively simple internal problems.  Most of all, a lot of lessons learned.  As I prepared to leave Sky to take on the role of Technical Director at Grand Union, I put together a short presentation for my team, reflecting on my time there and the great many things that we achieved, failed to achieve and aspired to.  Here, then, are ten things that I learned working for BSkyB.:

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