16 Jun 2017

Last September, as I marked my 15 years with IBM, I ended a post wondering what the next 5 years would hold in store. Perhaps a bit sooner than I had planned, it’s time to find out.

I’ve been in IBM’s Emerging Technologies Services group for close to 6 years now. In that time I’ve worked on a host of projects, including:

  • writing embedded MQTT code for smart energy meters
  • connecting a Scalextric to a mind-reading headset
  • 6 weeks spent in a 7th floor conference room writing custom Dojo UI widgets (not a highlight, but you’ve got to pay the bills)
  • wiring up some Arduinos and Pis in an Ice Cream factory (a highlight)

And of course, the main thing I’ve focused on for the last 3 years, Node-RED.

The client-funded nature of the work ETS does has meant I’ve only been able to work on Node-RED because someone has been willing to pay me to do so. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been in that position; being able to turn a side-project into a job.

I’ve enjoyed my time in ETS, but the time has come to make a change.

I have now moved over to IBM Digital Business Group to be a Developer Advocate, focussing on IoT. This is a new part of IBM where all of our work around developer advocacy is being brought together in one place.

Making our products, APIs and services attractive to developers is vital to the future of the business. Long gone are the days that software is sold to the CIO. Developers are far more empowered than they ever were to make their own technology choices. Go read Stephen O’Grady’s The New Kingmakers for a far more insightful take on how this has been the trend for quite some time now.

In my new role I’ll be working to help developers engage with our technology. Whether that’s through hackathons, conferences, blog posts, stack overflow questions, videos, Coursera courses – really anything and anywhere that developers are.

So what does this mean for my time on Node-RED?

Well, truth be told, the group I now work for is the group who was previously funding my time on Node-RED. So whilst I have changed departments, the primary focus of my work stays exactly what it has been: leading the Node-RED project and working hard to grow the community and eco-system around it.

Everything changes. Nothing changes. On to the next 5 years.

3 Sep 2016

In a previous post, I wrote about how I ended up at IBM. I finished that post with a question: Will I still be here in another 10 years? Well, I’m half-way to finding out, but I’m no closer to an answer.

The last 5 years in the Emerging Technologies group have flown by. The last three years of which have been pretty much dominated by my work on Node-RED. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it has been incredibly satisfying work. I’m very fortunate to be in this position; not everyone gets to turn a side-project they created into a job.

That said, as I spoke about in my Monkigras talk this year, when a side-project becomes a job, it risks becoming a chore. I have to continually make sure I strike a balance between the fun and the not-so-fun parts. I don’t always get that balance right which can make it harder work than it should be.

So what of the next 5 years? No doubt Node-RED will continue to be my focus for now, but that doesn’t stop me wondering what else I could be doing.

12 Nov 2014

Last month, I was fortunate enough to fly off to Austin with a group of colleagues for a week long IBM Design Thinking camp. It was an opportunity to get away from the day job, with laptops all-but banned, and have a deep-dive into what IBM Design is about and how it can be applied.

As a relatively new effort within the company, IBM Design sets out to bring a focus back to where it should be; the human-experience of our products and services. This isn’t just about making pretty user interfaces; it is the entire experience of our products.

As an engineer, the temptation is always there to create shiny new features. But no matter how shiny it is, if it isn’t what a user needs, then it’s a waste of effort. The focus has to be on what the user wants to be able to do. This is something I’ve always tried to do with Node-RED; we often get suggestions for features that, once you start picking at them, are really solutions looking for a problem. Once you work back and identify the problem, we’re often able to identify alternative solutions that are even better.

P1070048

It’s often just a matter of asking the right question; At Designcamp, the very first exercise we were asked to do was to draw a new type of vase. Everyone drew something that looked vaguely vase-like. Then (spoilers…) we were asked to draw a better way to display flowers. At this point we got lots of decidedly un-vase-like ideas that were much more imaginative. It’s the difference between asking for a feature and asking for an idea. The former presupposes a lot about the nature of the answer, the latter is focused on not just the what, but also the why.

This relentless focus on the user isn’t a new idea. GDS, who are doing incredible things with government services, have it as their very first Design Principle. But it is refreshing to see this focus being brought to bear within a transformation of how the entire company operates.

Oh, and of course being in Austin, we got to screen print our own IBM Designcamp T-Shirts to commemorate the visit.

Go to Designcamp, screen print your own t-shirt. Obvs.

Lots more photos from the week over on flickr.

21 Mar 2012

One of my plans for the year was to take photo everyday. I knew it would be a challenge as I spend most days at my desk in work. Trying to find a different, interesting photo everyday when I’m not visiting new places all the time meant opening my eyes to the everyday.

But it hasn’t really worked out like that. Looking through the photos to date, too many have been taken after 10pm as I’m heading to bed and needed to take a photo of something.

How else can I explain the photo of an orange?

Then last week, we were ill and although I dutifully took a photo each day, I didn’t get around to uploading them. Last night, sat in bed, I realised I hadn’t done that day’s photo.

All of these factors have resulted in my decision to stop the Flickr 366 project. It had become a chore and not fun.

I’m glad I tried and I’m sure I’ll try again in the future, but the 366:2012 set on Flickr is done.

1 Jan 2012

I had a plan last year. The intention was there, but the execution was lacking. This year will be different.

Rather than some nebulous, but well intentioned, aphorism, here are some of things I intend to do this year in no particular order.

  • Flickr 366 – a photo a day. I’ve tried and failed this before; I think I set the bar too high wanting a year of high quality photos. So, here are my rules: (at least) one photo taken everyday. Uploaded to Flickr as and when I can – no point stressing over not being near my laptop or an Internet connection at 11:59pm. I’d rather favour photos from my ‘proper’ camera, but I also want to get used to spotting the opportunities that come from having my phone in my pocket. Instagram may not be on Android yet, but the Flickr app just about works reliably. Why 366? It’s a leap year.
  • Write more – I managed a paltry nine posts last year; not even one a month. I tend to write about the things I’ve made or done. I’m not sure I want to change that approach, which leads me to…
  • Make more – more codey things, more physical things, more thing things. Bits, Atoms and the pieces in between.

Hmmm, bit of a nebulous list there. Never mind.

Onwards.