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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TEDx Talk

So here it is finally, my talk for TEDx Teeside. Looking back on it now I naturally wish that I’d applied some judicious personal editing and kept a slightly tighter focus. That said, this talk covers quite a lot of ground and has formed the basis of most of the last 6 months of my work at Sky. In this respect alone, I have a lot to talk about and this normally takes the form of a conversation rather than a lecture. Nonetheless, it’s been a privilage to be involved in the TEDx programme and to share a little of why I remain, despite the struggles and challenges, optimistic and excited about my industry.

To clarify a few points: The title for the talk was actually “Research and Creativity in the Corporate Media Environment”. I suspect the editor has mixed up the title with the Hillel Cooperman TED talk on Lego which they showed that evening at Teeside and to which I refer at the end.

The Kinect work that I showed was mostly done by other people, with the exception of the Sky News explorer which was coded by Jason Langdon in my team. I am indebted to the entire OpenKinect community for their excellent groundwork and for the two engaging examples (and apologies that I couldn’t get the model to work – the kids earlier in the day flipped for it though!), and to USC’s MxR Lab for the FAAST toolkit which we used to power a number of the demos. We await the official Microsoft SDK with baited breath.

Lastly, I could really use a decent stylist and sorry for the shot of my bum…occupational hazard ;o)

View the talk in full at Vimeo.

I am actually developing this talk a little further at the moment so if any readers are interested in me speaking at their conference or organisation in the future, please get in touch.

Notes from TEDx

lego print advert /via http://designspiration.net/image/15345/

This was the closing image of my TEDx talk at Teesside University last week. I think it’s one of the most beautiful images I know. It actually brings a lump to my throat when I see it. My talk will be published in full soon – it was an incredible experience. Daunting, especially being the closing act after so many great ideas had been communicated, but exhilarating as well. I hope that I managed to impart some of the spirit of what I’ve found in my experiments in creative research at Sky. As a notorious master of the tangential ramble, it was a challenge to keep to 20 mins whilst remaining focussed on what I wanted to say.

My takeaway message, which is encapsulated neatly in the image above, from a Lego print campaign in 2006, is that in the corporate environment, we often rush toward an end product, locking it down, planning it, concerning ourselves with the minutiae of it’s execution. Letting your imagination run free, expending company time and funds on frivolous explorations of creative ideas, technology and the very nature of your organisation’s products or brand bring nothing but benefits to you in the longterm. By abstracting the central ideas from the deliverable product, we energise our teams, create better environments and workflows, and, at best, allow new paradigms for our work to emerge.

Basically, have fun again and don’t worry if your timesheet has unaccountable holes within it. One cannot quantify the experiential.

Massive thank you’s to all at Teeside University and the awesome Institute of Digital Innovation for hosting the event, and in particular to Jane Henderson who is always a pleasure to work with.

A generative christmas card

Christmas Card

This was something I built for the internal team christmas card, along with designer Leigh Furby.  It was built in a couple of rainy afternoons in 2009, mostly in response to some research I had been doing with the Adobe Kuler API for some project work (building photoshop panels for the Sky News design team).

The best kind of experimental work, I find, comes from trying one very simple thing, and then iterating and adding features until you have something cool.  Weirdly, I found the Kuler manipulations and the patterning quite straightforward…for some reason it was the bitmap file output (i.e. saving the image) that proved the toughest nut to crack.

Have a play…