Geonerdery getting easier…

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Played for the first time this evening with the Nokia Sports Tracker app on the N95. I placed it in the front pouch of my Brompton bag and set off for the station from the office.

The GPS usually acquires satellites painfully slowly, but it got a fix fairly quickly – helped by being in the middle of semi-rural Hampshire, with the tallest thing for miles being a squat 3-storey technology company HQ…

There’s an “autopause” feature on the app which seems to notice when you’ve been at rest for a while, which is a nice touch – but the best thing was once I’d got home and discovered the ease at which you can export it to something like Google Earth.

It was a three-click operation to save and send the file to my Macbook, where I just double clicked it and swooped in on my little bike ride from orbit.


Touchy, Feely, 2012-ly.

Nokia Design: Explore Concept 2012 on VimeoConcept work here by the lovely people in our Calabasas studio illustrating what Nokia Nseries could do in 2012.

Just the device to have around for the end of the Mayan Calendar and the arrival of TimeWave-Zero/Barbelith/VALIS/The Solar Maximum/Whatever.

Our team was peripherally involved in brainstorming it with them, but they have put together a rather lovely thing here. There had to be a Welshman involved…


Unknown Pleasures Album Cover

“Context-Handback” is something I find that I want nearly everything – or my everyware, at least – to do.

What do I mean?

An inverse-concrete example: something that can’t perform context-handback is my new little iPod shuffle.

I bought it last weekend after a longish break from the Jobs/Ive Hegemon, in order to play some of the iTunes purchased DRM’d gear I’m stuck with, and also because it’s just gorgeous as an object.

More perfect than the perfect thing it seems in both build quality and simplicity.

Foe had owned an original shuffle before but I’d never tried it – I’m finding thought that I really love the surrender to the flow of your own music – music that you perhaps didn’t realise you owned or had neglected, surfaced by the pseudo-stochastic, inscrutable selectah inside the tiny metal extrusion.

Perhaps I’m prepped to enjoy this semi-surprising personal radio station by my other semi-surprising personal radios – and pandora.

I listen to a lot of at work, and I find its recommendations only more and more rewarding over time.

But I find I obsess now on feeding it more and more – I want to handback to it from all of my musical consumption – my shuffle, the radio on my N95, shazam-tags from something playing in the pub – everything.

I want to bring it offerings.

And there’s the rub – so little of that musical consumption, in fact the bulk of it done on the go – can be offered back to

It’s so frustrating that my musical discoveries and rediscoveries can’t feed back into creating more, or even that I can’t see what I enjoyed in iTunes when I synchronise with
the shuffle.

Faltering steps towards remedying this trivial problem can be seen in something like this hacked-up scrobbler for mobile in S60 python.

More context-handback hopefully in the next few years, until then – unknown pleasures.

Three years at Nokia


Some self-indulgence (on a blog? NO!)
Today, November the 3rd, is three years to the day I started at Nokia.

Having been interviewed by Marko in the balmy, bright-blue-skied days of the Finnish summer, and having brought Foe for a recce in the brisk, equally-bright-blue-skied autumn, I turned up in the dour, downtrodded november streets of Ruoholahti and wondered what I’d let meself in for.

Still do sometimes – three years and I’m still learning. Today was spent in the snowbound forest for instance with the nice people who make the 770 internet tablet and the Maemo platform – who are all about a thousand times smarter than me. Fun.

The first two years were spent more in design research, notably (for me at least) working with Janne, Jyri, Marko, Jan and Chris amongst others on the early stages of NFC and thinking about interaction design for what was going to come down the line as the world got that little bit more spimey.

Also being able to spend about a year or so with Janne again, and Minh – thinking, doing, scribbling and playing with the nature of Play – the greatest human universal and endless source of fantastic insight.

I was a very lucky boy.

The last year (corresponding with the gradual decline of this blog) has seen me in a different role – about this time last year I moved to Nokia Design to work with the team designing the Nokia Nseries products, building the user-experience team and generally wrestling with the sometimes overwhelming job of helping to make the most powerful mobile devices – simpler, clearer and more delightful to use while not compromising the superpowers they can grant the owner.

Nothing on the shelves yet that I’ve been involved with – one thing for a mainly ex-web person to get used to is the lead times involved in combining bits and atoms – but there’s some awesome stuff coming in 2007 which our little team has contributed to.

This is the longest I’ve actually spent at one place (even the BBC) and I feel like I want to spend a lot longer here. My original boss, who became a good friend has moved on and this week has seen him make new (very interesting) waves, like Jyri having taken the startup route… but I’m facing the possibility myself that I’ve found what I want to do for now, and so I guess this blog will just keep getting worse for a few more years!

Jobs at Nokia Design

Thanks to everyone who got in touch. We’re closing the advertising now for the posts ‘IRL’, so I’ll do the same here.

This is the first time I’ve done such a thing (I think) and as far as I know it’s the first time we’ve done it at Nokia Design, but it seems to have worked for others in the past, so here goes…

We’re looking for a few mind-blowing people to join the team working on user-experience and interaction design for Nokia Nseries [warning – a lot of Flash] and other multimedia goodness.

There are two roles up for grabs at the moment:

Senior Design Specialist, User Experience Design
This is quite a senior role, and would suit someone with 8+ years of experience in UE design, 5+− years as UE creative lead.
It is both a ‘business-facing’ role and a team-building/growing role: excellent people and team working skills are a definite plus. It’s also a creative role, excellent concepting/vision-communication skills are needed. We’re working in an increasing multi-disciplinary and rapidly-prototyping manner, so both wide brains and deep skills are a must.


User-Experience Designer
This might suit someone who is a post-grad designer with 2-3 years industry experience under their belt – not necessarily directly mobile, but with a strong multi-platform, , multi-device, people-centred view of interaction design. This is much more of a hand-on, project-oriented role, but again it’s working in the same multi-disciplinary, rapidly-prototyping team environment. Excellent UE/UI/interaction prototyping skills are needed here (Flash, Illustrator, all the usuals etc – plus pens, post-its and polyboard!) to be able to evaulate concepts and designs quickly.

If you’re looking for what must be one of the most challenging jobs in mobile experience design, are interested and willing to work in Helsinki or London, or have any questions, then drop me a line at the usual email address matt (at) and I can put you in touch with our recruitment people to get more detail job descriptions etc.

Here 2.0: Big Here, Little Screen

Jason Kottke points to a remarkable post by Kevin Kelly entitled The Big Here, after the Eno-coined-counterpart to the Long Now – which shoots a diamond bullet through my thoughts for the last few months:

At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.

In the post it goes on to take you through a quiz which examines your knowledge of your immediate environs, and the linkages it has to the wider ecosystem.

Here are the first three questions:

30 questions to elevate your awareness (and literacy) of the greater place in which you live:

1) Point north.

2) What time is sunset today?

3) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.

Kelly prefaces this with a positioning of the quiz as one of his “cool tools”:

“The intent of this quiz is to inspire you to answer the questions you can’t initially. I’d like to collect and then post the best step-by-step suggestions about how to answer a particular question. These are not answers to the quiz, but recommended paths on how one might most efficiently answer the question locally. Helpful websites which can provide local answers are wanted. Because of the severe specificity of local answers, the methods provided should be as general as possible. The emerging list of answer-paths will thus become the Cool Tool.”

So far, so good.

Wonderful, even.

My immediate thought though, reading both Jason’s post and Kevin Kelly’s mission is why the hell is this not on a mobile?

So – I over the summer am going to try and knit something together to get it there.

  1. I imagine it will be pretty easy (i.e. within the reach of my terrifyingly-bad coding skills) just to port the text quiz to a mobile using S60 python as a standalone experience.
  2. It might be easy enough then to both launch web resources from the quiz on the mobile device, and perhaps post answers in some easily-aggregated format to back out to the web from whoever takes the quiz.
  3. however might be more tricky…

What I immediately imagined was the extension of this quiz into the fabric of the near-future mobile and it’s sensors – location (GPS, CellID), orientation (accelerometers or other tilt sensors), light (camera), heat (Nokia 5140’s have thermometers…), signal strength, local interactions with other devices (Bluetooth, uPnP, NFC/RFID) and of course, a connection to the net.

The near-future mobile could become a ‘tricorder’ for the Big Here – a daemon that challenges or channels your actions in accordance and harmony to the systems immediately around you and the ripples they raise at larger scales.

It could be possible (but probably with some help from my friends) to rapidly-prototype a Big Here Tricorder using s60 python, a bluetooth GPS module, some of these scripts, some judicious scraping of open GIS data and perhaps a map-service API or two.

One thought that springs to mind would be to simply geotag the results of a quiz (assuming the respondent takes the quiz in-situ!) and upload that to a geowiki, something like Place-O-Pedia.

It might be delightful to see the varying answers from valiant individuals clustered in a location and inspire some collaboration on getting to the ‘right’ answers about their collective bit of the big here or the issues raised by the route there more importantly perhaps.

One open question would be if this ‘Big Here Tricorder’ where realised, would it genuinely raise an individual or community’s awareness of their local ecosystem and it’s connections at other scales? “Every extension is also an amputation” etc.

Well – we won’t know unless we build it.

While we’ve had a couple of year’s noise about Where2.0, I reckon there’s a hell of a lot of mileage and some real good could come of focussing on Here2.0… which gives me a nice little summer project – thanks Kevin, Brian and Jason


A while back I had an idle wish for a firefox extension that autogenerated a 2d barcode (semacode or other) from the URL of the current page/thing/resource, so I could quickly snarf it into my mobile and take it with me.

Instantly-mobile deeplinky goodness with no fiddly typing.*

A random thought tonight while staring at my browser: how much info could I store in a favicon, if I made it a 2d barcode?


A favicon is 16×16, and readable datamatrix 2d codes go down to 10×10 and 3mm. Of course, readable here means by an industrial scanner from a crisp printed sticker, rather than a mobile phone and a fuzzy LCD display.

Here’s the semacode for the wikipedia entry on Blogjects (it was the 2nd workshop that Julian and Nicholas have run on those blighters this week, so it seemed an appropriate choice!)


As you can see, a fair slice of the data is cropped if we try for 16×16 in order to make a favicon.

Still – I wonder if there’s anything doable there? Could something useful and/or diverting be done in this little space in the address field?

If not, my original lazyweb wish for a firefox extension to create instant takeaway datashadows still stands…

* Yes, before Charlie gets all-up-in-my-face (;-) – I know winksite has semacode integration – but I want EVERYTHING I visit to have a code ,whether they like it or not!

Design for mobile services: nice, little details matter

I’ve started playing with from Tiny Pictures.

Nothing much to report yet, but there is one little design detail that I’ll be stashing away for my own stuff (as long as Mr. Poisson et al don’t mind) which is not only going for a URL that is t9/predictive-text friendly, but also issuing identity elements (an auto-generated unique posting address to MMS pictures to, in this case) that are t9-compliant.

This makes it far, far easier and more pleasurable to set-up the service and integrate it with your mobile, which with these sorts of things is 75% of the battle won. Makes the thing feel very polished and considered from the start, which gives me the confidence to trust with a little bit more of my digital life perhaps.

My feeling is that despite all the hoo-haa about uglydesign/undesign’s success in Web2.0, it just won’t carry in the Mobile Web 2.0 world.

Yubnub, Skype and Vodafone web access

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Foe wrote a simple yubnub command on the weekend, and suggested it might be quite neat when accessed from a mobile, in order to see whether the other person was available to call (over cellular, not Skype…)

Tried it this evening, to find that was treated as a ‘restricted access’ site by Vodafone’s web gateway.

This is the bar put in place by default by Vodafone in order to stop kiddywinks downloading ‘premium adult content’ (surely they’re all busily making their own with camphones and uploading it to youtube?) – which after ages of wandering around Voda’s Heathrow-Airport of a website and two registrations (one of which involved entering a creditcard number to which I got charged £1 to prove my age, and reimbursed £2.50!?!?!!!) I finally managed to get removed.

I switched the phone on and off (!) and then tried the ‘Skype’ command again. It worked fine.

Finally - it works.

I tried it again with a different friend’s Skype handle, and I got bounced back to the “Restricted Access” page!!!

One can’t help but wonder what Vodafone is doing classing Skype in with porn, and making it as difficult as possible to get to their site online on your phone, it’s not as if Skype have even got a cellular product live yet.

Cockup… or conspiracy?

Future Platforms for play

I’ve got a big old post almost done on the project, but Tom has procrastinated slightly less and beaten me to it – writing about a prototype that Future Platforms built for me early in the year.

“We all like to play; whether we’re trainspotters, online gamers, old or young, we all take pleasure from playfulness. It can be solo activity, a social exercise, investigative, educational or just plain fun. In a mobile context, play is usually associated with simple downloadable arcade games – but this needn’t be the whole story.

So we built a mobile toy for Nokia, called Twitchr.”

Don’t know if Tom is going to talk about it tomorrow at MoMoLondon, as I think his talk will be concentrating on Flirtomatic. If you’re going to MoMoLo – see you there I hope.

» Tom Selling New Mobile Phone Features