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Week 28

January 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Writing a weeknote on Sunday means you get to cheat a bit, see what everyone else has got going on. Reading through the posts, I found my self nodding in agreement, especially when I got to Ben Brown’s admiration for BERG, and his desire to get the internal processes of XOXCO worked up to a high gloss. I can certainly empathize; between client work, IxD ’10 prep and Pumpkinhead, there’s sadly been little time to really define Second Verse. I’ll be needing to manufacture an opportunity to change that.

If Ben sorts out that cloning procedure, I’m next in line.

Thankfully, this past week offered the chance to work with Kristin Nienhuis – as talented and forthright a collaborator as I could ask for. She and I will be knocking out the KickLight work over the next few weeks, making certain that the best ideas make their way off of the whiteboard and into the product. Friday’s all day review with the KickLight team was illuminating – initial presentation of working artifacts is always nerve-wracking, but I find it provides the best possible gut check. If your concept deviates from your client’s intended direction, the opportunities to course-correct are fleeting. Sort it early, and check in often.

Production work for Pumpkinhead is increasingly gaining momentum. I take an enormous amount of pleasure in responding to Tony & Tim’s “wouldn’t it be awesome if” messages with realized sketches of their proposed functionality. We are unapologetically building for ourselves, putting pieces of the experience together in ways that keep us motivated to push everything further, faster.

Two weeks remaining before Savannah, and plenty to do before I leave.

Categories: weeknote

Week 27

January 8, 2010 Leave a comment

The second Friday morning of January, and Second Verse has officially entered its second calendar year. What a complete difference from a year ago. I find myself pausing to consider the delta between the then and now at regular intervals, and generally end up with a smile on my face.

The news is up on Crunchbase now, so I should probably mention that I’m involved with Tony Conrad’s latest startup. Yes, it’s called Pumpkinhead. No, that’s not the name of the product. Pumpkinhead evolved as a project code name early on; Tony had asked Jason Santa Maria and I to help flesh out an idea he had been discussing with Tim Young. Both Jason and I are fans of horror films – his taste is more refined, I like them dumb. REALLY dumb. “Leperchaun” franchise dumb. Given the time of year (and the fact that it stars Lance Henriksen), I thought “Pumpkinhead” would work just fine.

Then Tony named the company after the codename. Guy has a sense of humor, one of the many reasons I’d follow him into hell.

So, yes. Pumpkinhead. It’s evolved past the original concept into something refined… and wonderful. The further we get in building it out, the more excited I am to get it out in the world. It marries quite a few of the things I care about into a very straightforward package, and thanks to Jason, it’s starting to look pretty sweet.

There’s more going on. I’ve been balancing Pumpkinhead with running Second Verse; on most days, successfully. My business development efforts in early December worked out well, and I’ve contracted with some folks from SRI to work on a video product called KickLight. They’ve been successful in proving the value of what they’re building, and they’ve asked me to help them refine and build it out.

In my work with them this week, I’ve already wound up re-learning the truism that the more you try to simplify things, the more you risk eliminating or obfuscating what differentiates the product in the minds of your users. Looking forward to getting deeper, seeing how to evolve the experience.

Finally, as the organizer for IxD 10‘s Local Design Challenge, I’m delighted to say that submissions should start coming in next week. The judging panel has been selected and briefed, and everything is coming together for the conference early next month. If you’re attending, please let me know in the comments.

Happy new year to you.

Categories: weeknote

Week 23

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

With twenty days remaining in the year, there’s about six blank pages left in my current, much-abused Moleskin. With the amount of work that’s going on, I’m fairly certain I’ll be breaking in the next before New Year’s Eve.

Last week’s opportunities have sorted themselves out, and it’s clear what I’ll be working on in the weeks and months to come, though timing is still a little up in the air. End of the year is always like that. I’ve had meetings this week with both my accountant and tax planner, and we’re looking to close 2009 on some very positive notes.

Speaking of positive notes, the holiday season got off to a rousing start with some great parties from the folks at Social Cast, Kissmetrics, Mule Design and Kicker. It’s amazing that anyone get anything done with all the festivities, but everyone I’ve been speaking to says business is good, bordering on great. The economy may have done some damage to the availability of venture capital, but startups and the agencies who serve them seem to be pretty healthy.

Best non-party work event of the week was certainly the Quantified Self meetup at Wired on Monday night. Excellent presentations from the WakeMate guys, plus Dave deBronkart (aka ePatientDave), Esther Dyson, Ashley Tudor and Jen McCabe of Contagion Health. I’m most interested in learning more about actigraphy, especially with its potential for valuable insights when combined with historical infographics.

One more week of work before the holiday shut-down. I’m hoping the effort I’ve put in over the last two weeks helps Second Verse come out of the gates sprinting in January.

Categories: weeknote

Week 22

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

I had been expecting December to be quiet from a business development perspective, and had front-loaded the workload for the quarter to compensate. I decamped for New Orleans in week 20 having successfully delivered on all of Second Verse’s outstanding obligations. While I was off eating more po’ boys than I really should have, Om Malik announced the work I did with his team on the redesign of the GigaOm Network blogs, and a variety of new opportunities have emerged.

The earliest part of this week was spent prepping for and conducting a one-day workshop with a new client; it looks likely to move forward, affording me a welcome opportunity to revisit the online video space. One of the projects that completed before the break may require some additional oversight, so a retainer relationship has been proposed. Finally, I’m getting a second bite at the apple with a project that would have me working with some of my favorite big-idea folks in a rather heady problem space. The majority of my time this week has been spent drafting and submitting proposals for all of this new work. I’m realizing that I was overly conservative in my estimation of demand, and will need to retool my Q1 projections.

There is one opportunity I won’t be able to pursue, despite it being right in my wheelhouse. I’ve been offering a bit of UX advice and direction to some friends working on a digital comics application, but they’re in need of a dedicated resource. Do you love comics, and solving hard UX problems? Leave a comment and I’ll connect you with them.

Meanwhile, there’s been some progress in making Second Verse more of a “real” company. I jumped at the opportunity to purchase the secondverse.com domain, and have redirected blog traffic away from the original dot WordPress address. The goal is to switch over to my own WP install and put up a marketing and communications site for SV, though right now I’d settle for having business cards. More on that soon. On the physical front, I’m extending my tenure within the Small Batch (Typekit) space through 2010. I’ve now got my office to myself (doubling my previous meatspace square footage!), and Bryan promises I’ll have a door at some point.

Real enough, for the time being.

Categories: weeknote