Bye Dopplr

While I hope no-one ever gets to see this...

Nokia is switching off this month (they said 1st November, but as I write, it’s still there…)

Marko asked me and Matt B to a pub (somewhere on Charlotte St I think, might have been The Fitzroy Tavern) about 8 years ago to talk about an idea he had.

The next January we took a weekend away in a cottage in Norfolk to prototype the first version.

Phone and binoculars

We let a hundred or so friends try it, we took it to SxSW. We worked part-time on it, we got angel money. We quit our jobs and worked full-time on it for a year or two.

At Dopplr

Dopplr Friday

Dopplr Friday

Our most active users loved it. We moved in with our friends at Moo, and inadvertently rebranded Old St as ‘Silicon Roundabout’.

Papercamp preparations

We released new functionality every two months or so that we were enormously proud of.

DOPPLR: Porthcawl

Dopplr's New City Pages

DOPPLR: Dopplr group home

DOPPLR- Matt Jones

My Dopplr personal annual report has arrived

We had ideas of how to make money, but getting to critical mass was hard. We were mobile (SMS!) friendly from the start, but too slow to build an iPhone app.

We suffered from being hard-to-define, falling between awesome logistical tools like Tripit, and pure social networks. We kept going. We even ‘pivoted’ a little, and created a ‘social atlas’ of recommendations built out of analyzing crowdsourced data, but perhaps too early before services like Foursquare showed how it really should be done.

I left to join Matt & Jack and build BERG, Dopplr got sold to Nokia. Dopplr kept going even though none of the team could work on it while they were at Nokia – testament to Matt, Tom and Boris’ code-chops.

And now it’s going away for good…

I learned a hell of a lot designing and building Dopplr. I still stand by a lot of the principles that we as a team tried to follow. Don’t build a website, build a part of the web. Be polite, playful and pertinent. Use copy as UI as well as possible. And perhaps most importantly in the last few weeks: always let the user leave – easily and gracefully, with all of their data.

Bye Dopplr

So, thanks to Marko, Matt B., Tom, Boris, Celia, Dan, Lisa, Noa – and our investors/advisers especially Saul Klein.

It was great being your fellow traveller.

With two ‘l’s’ of course…

From Business to Buttons, Malmo

My talk at “From Business To Buttons” in Malmo has been recorded and is online with all the rest of the event here.

It was a gentle ramble through some territory Tom Coates and myself explored last year, with some added detail about the Dopplr Personal Annual Report.

It’s about 40 minutes or so if you’re really bored…

Malmo was a blast (literally, in terms of the weather and horizontal rain) thanks for the invite and hospitality from the Business-to-Buttons crew, especially all the interaction design student volunteers I hung out with and pointed us to the best bars and art exhibits in the city, including the fantastic Sonic Youth exhibition I snuck away and saw…

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We launched public profiles on Dopplr yesterday – and the thing that seems to get people talking is their personal velocity, rendered as an animal.

I’m not sure when this occured to me, perhaps it’s my fascination with daemons and familiars – but it seems to strike a chord.

The hardest part of implementing this was finding enough animals at lower speeds – the internet has lots of data on fast, exciting beasties, but not so much on the slowpokes.

We’d love to get more members for our menagerie…

If you’re a zoologist or know one please get in touch!

No, really.

Two-thousand and prate

Happy New Year

I’ve got a couple of speaking gigs coming up in the new year, and I’m getting down to thinking beyond the proposals I made for them, to what I’m actually going to, y’know, say.

I’ve spoken at conferences in the past, but the difference this time, which I’ve not experienced before is that I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone other than the company I co-founded.

It’s fast coming up on Dopplr‘s first birthday (I think MattB wrote the first lines of code at year ago tomorrow) and now it’s been getting a little bit of attention and serious usage, I’ve been taking a little bit of time to step back and look at the faults, the lessons and the next things to fix, improve, change.

Over new year in Tokyo with Boris we couldn’t help but discuss some of the design problems we’ve got and came up with what (at least, wandering around in the sunshine and cold, and far away from a computer screen, or even a whiteboard) seemed like nice solutions.

The stuff I think I’ve learned in the first year of doing Dopplr is going to be the core of my first talk at IxDA08 in Savannah in February, although as it’s going to be an expert audience, I’m also hoping to go into some more abstract territory that Boris, MattB, Tom and myself sometimes head into when we’re chatting over a Greggs Tea in the office.

I’m very excited about the event itself, which is the inaugural get-together for iXDA, with some awesome keynotes – but also to expose what I’ve been doing with Dopplr to probably the toughest audience I could dream of.

The other talk I’ve just gotten confirmed is on the design and user-experience track at Web2.0Expo in San Francisco this April.

Polite, Pertinent and… Pretty: Designing for the new-wave of Personal Informatics

There?s an explosion in what?s been called ?personal informatics?: services that surface information about you and your network to your advantage. I?ll examine how great UX design can maximise the benefits to all.

Primarily reviewing design decisions from the development of, I?ll also draw on many other applications, devices and services from the cutting edge of personal informatics, to identify patterns and principles that work for power-users and newbies alike.

Privacy is often, quite rightly, the first concern of users, designers and developers ? but I?ll argue that some other ?P?s: Pertinence, Politeness and, yes? Prettiness are equally important for the adoption and success of such services.

The multi-disciplinary nature of creating great user experiences is taken to extremes in the nascent area of ?personal informatics? and I?ll touch on information visualisation, user-centred service-design, copywriting, geo-location, wayfinding, design for mobile, ubiquitous computing, video-games, ?spimes?, industrial design and even urban planning before we?re done.

Web2.0Expo’s audience I have no idea about, but I’m guessing it’s more oriented towards business people and developers / technical managers.

As you can guess from the blurb, I’m going to try and connect some of the stuff we’re doing with Dopplr to some of my favourite themes of the last few years, and stuff that I think is going on around the area more generally, including work by people like Tom, Adam and the Stamens.

I’m not sure it’s strictly “web2.0” but it’s what’s most exciting to me at the moment, so thanks to the organisers for feeling the same way! Currently, I’m ‘sole billing’, but I’m hoping to get some guest stars roped into the discussion.

I thought I’d write down what I want to do in order to make myself do it, and perhaps invite some wit and wisdom to inject also.

Hope to see you at one or both of them, anyway.

A big day

Today, Dopplr went v1.0 and open – but while the rest of the gang were over in Paris, I was at the RCA for the final presentations from students on the teaching project I’ve been visiting tutor for.
A very long day, but very exciting to see the fruits of six weeks wrestling with an enormous, wobbly jelly of a brief: the future of money.
I’ve lectured and been a visiting critic at design schools before, and also been industry sponsor for a couple of projects similar to the one we’ve been running (Intel’s People and Practices group were sponsoring this) but this was the first time I’ve really been stuck into a project all the way through.
Totally nerve-wracking, and totally satisfying.

Thanks to Wendy March of Intel, Tony Dunne and my estimable co-tutor Onkar Kular. Special thanks to all the first and second year students on the Design Interactions course for putting up with me.

Where next?

I’m sitting typing this the day after my last day at Nokia.

I’ve got about a week before I start back at the BBC, where I’ll be working in the “Vision” department with content creators and commissioners investigating and demonstrating (I hope) how better to use the internet to help deepen/broaden the stories being told and worlds being built.

I’ve worked at the BBC before – done a couple of tours in fact, but not worked with the storytellers before.

Exciting stuff.

That’s going to be four days a week and on the fifth day… Well, I’ve been working in my spare time since January on Dopplr with Mr. Biddulph and the other dopplristas and I’m very happy to be having some more time to spend whittling that with him.

After 12 years working on digital stuff for other people it feels amazing to do something so directly and get such direct feedback from people using something you helped make. Very stressful but highly-recommended. I’ll be writing more about Dopplr over at

Also, I’m hoping to get some other neglected things up-and-running again, like this place. More drawing and also I hope some teaching. By which, of course, I mean learning… as in, if you have to tell people what you think, you have to listen hard and think harder – which is learning!


If you see what I mean.

So if anyone has a gig teaching who would indulge me in coming along to crit/tutor/talk – let me know!