Mars Spiders

Another break from the 7 day challenge.

Yesterday I visited a start-up company called Mars Spiders, which is run by an ex-class mate of mine from London Met, David Olsan.

He has a small team creating apps for phones. There don’t have a permanent space, per se, but divide their time between space at Geovation in Farringdon and the Google Campus in King’s Cross. As well as that he has lots of off site talent that he able to draw on, as and when, such as copy writers, animators etc.

It really opened my eyes about how mobile a business truly can be, while still having the opportunity to have a face-to-face team.

David also gave me a whole lot of tips of interesting things to investigate, such as tools for app creation, business finance, SEO and online fonts. As well as tips on WordPress* (which I started using for this site) and Google Campus events.

In return I offered my thoughts on his website and proofreading.

All in all a very productive visit.

Day 6 – What difference do I want to make?

Today’s topic: What difference do you want to make?

I think this topic is like how am I going to change the world? There are lots of changes that I think that should be made in the world, but I’m not going to become a politician, and I am not in a position to be a billionaire philanthropist.

Some changes that I know that I can made, because I have. I’m very good at solving problems. Coming into a situation and seeing things in a new light. And then coming up with a solution, which probably has to be different to what has been tried, taking into account all the limitation of the current situation and being persistent. And then enacted that solution.

I know in the past when I have done this, although it may have been resented at the time of the change, at the end of the process there is often near universal acclaim that the situation is better, and how could they have put up with the way it was for so long. I say ‘near universal’ because there is often one person, the one that had the most invested in the old way, that won’t like the new way. Not because they don’t think the new way is better, but because… well, ego. I’m not very good dealing with egos. And indeed the old way may have been that way because of ego and nothing else. Sweep it out of the way is often my attitude. I don’t care for the pompous.

But what way would I like to make a difference? This is that perennial question that I keep asking myself at the moment “What do I want to be when I grow up?”. I don’t know.

I think what I’m capable of is something combined with graphics, information and education. Although admittedly I just cherry picked those qualities to get to the conclusion that I’m interested in some sort of InfoVis. Nice graphics. Interactive. Probably involving maps. Because I am interested in that.

And I think such things can make a difference. It’s a good way to disseminate information that previously was hard to understand. A good way to educate. Could help in many situations in the world, from the everyday, to business, to crises.

But essentially I think I will make the most difference once I get my teeth stuck into something. Then I feel that I’m unstoppable. But I need to find that passion.

Data at TEDx


TEDxSquareMile2015 was held at the Cass Business School of City University. I mention this because I realised that I had attended City University earlier in this year on an Advanced Javascript short course.

This was my second TEDx, and as before the audience were keen to engage with each other. My best connections was my first, a guy called Paul Weeden, who owns his own IT company, but is also a data + maps nerd like me.

The Cass Business School has several displays of work they did in the foyer, including some datamapping.


This show the Role of Gender in Urban Cycling. Basically mapping the Boris Bikes’ journeys taken by gender (blue for men, red for women). Wow! Boris Bikes are predominantly used by men!


This second map shows the energy consumption in 22 regions of France as a ‘stenomap’.


A break from the ‘seven day challange’ to talk about the here and now.

Yesterday I went to TEDxSquareMile2015. More about the event next post, but this post I want to talk about my favourite speakers.

Helen Morris-Brown – she talked about communicating effectively in the modern age, specifically text. Her talk resonated with me because frequently I send well considered and crafted message either to get a) no response, b) a one word response, akin to a grunt or c) a response which is can so obvious be interpreted in more than one way. People think that messaging is easy, I agree with Helen that is a lot more difficult and much more prone to misunderstanding.

Octavius Black – who talked about how we are much more likely to make connections with people with have something in common with. For example sharing one or both initials. An email from a person with shared initials dramatically increases a response. He said that diversity in any group is not what’s important, it is inclusion that is important. It’s pointless having a diverse group if half the members feel alienated. He said something like: don’t same I’m different from you, I’m different like you.

John Dennis – an arctic explorer who had suffered from deep depression. A moving talk.

Pilgrim Beart – a successful entrepreneur. He made a point that it is pointless being 10 steps ahead of the curve. No-one will buy your product, the market won’t understand you. Be just one step ahead of the curve. Save the rest for later.

Lisa Lavia and Harry Witchel – Their talk was about noise in everyday life. They pointed out it is pointless measuring how loud a noise it, but it is the quality of the noise. A quieter noise can be disturbing if it is unpleasant.

Stephanie Bosset – Be sceptical of everything you see in online media. Check your sources.

Tariq El Kashef – A talk about mindfulness and how modern (social) media is distracting us and stopping us being in the moment. The irony of this talk is that for this session I was sitting next to a woman, who had her phone on the table in front of her, and literally every 30 seconds she would push the home button, briefly scroll through her Facebook feed, then put the phone back to sleep. And 30 seconds later she’d do it again. Over and over and over. I  wanted to scream JUST STOP. Why was she at TED? She wasn’t paying attention.

Arturs Ivanovs, a laughter yoga teacher – This guy was bizarre. Everything about him. He’s a young Eastern European guy. Obviously very fit and muscular. Very sharply dressed in a suit and tie. And he teaches laughter yoga. So his schtick is a combination of stand-up comedian, clown and motivational speaker. He had the whole audience on their feet, doing ‘laughter exercises’. It was funny, because we had this clown getting us to do absurd things. I enjoyed this talk, but I’m dubious that repeated sessions of this would be fun.

Day 5 – Elevator Pitch

Today’s Topic. What’s your elevator pitch? By elevator pitch I just mean… what are you excited about (personal or business)? What are you building or want to build? You know, the fun stuff in your life that you actually care about.

This is going to sound really nerdy, but the one this that fits most of the above is InfoVis. Information visualisation. I really love a good map. But online I really love a goood interactive piece of visual data. If I’m bored I will sometimes just go looking for this.

But also I often am fiddling about with my own visualisations.

I think we are lost in a sea of data, we have too much information, and that a good visualisation may be able to help our brains interpret it better or encourage us to explore it.

My final project of my Masters in Digital Media was a 4D visualisation of world health statistics. By 4D, I mean a graph with 3 axes and a time elements, which could be animated.

Other visualisations that I’ve worked on in my own time include a Flash visualisation of the history of the London Underground (with a HTML5 version in the works), a web interactive of the history of Doctor Who and several visualised maps of my travels around the world. URLs below.

My favourite TED talker and a (sort of) hero of mine is Hans Rosling. He creates some great multi-dimensional graphics (particularly his bubble chart), but he also give great talks to accompany them. His web adddress is:

I’ve have also seen visualisation set on 3D interactive globes. I love these. An example can be seen here:

My URLs:

I not sure this is my elevator pitch. I think I have to work on that.
But this is the sort of stuff I get enthusiastic enough about that I obviously spend my spare time on it.

Day 4 – What’s one thing I’m proud of?

Today’s topic: What’s one thing you’re proud of?

This one’s an easy one. My magnum opus. The Core magazine.

When I was in my early 20s, I had left university without finishing my degree (I’ve since completed two). I had left my job at a pizza store. I had been unemployed for two years.

My time was spent learning this new desktop publishing thing. And going out on the new dance music scene (which recently was rebranded EDM). In my home town of Adelaide at the time there was one magazine that covered any sort of bar / club / music venue scene. And it was obsessed with rock. So it would take the advertising of the dance music clubs, but never cover the scene in their articles.

I got to know the movers and shakers on this scene and I kept harping on about how someone should do something about this. For months. Eventually someone got sick of me and retorted “Why don’t you do something about it?” So I did.

I tried to get and failed to get a government startup grant. Instead I ended up borrowing money from friends. Using the computer and other kit from my (at the time) SO. We moved from the suburbs into the centre of town and lived in my office.

The magazine became my life. 14 hours a day, seven days a week. It was a weekly magazine, as soon as one issue was finished, we’d just start the new one.

Initially it was just me working on the mag full-time. Then after a few months my now ex-SO joined the team (uncomfortable to say the least). Another really good friend helped out a lot around the office, and eventually we got another paid office worker in (who became a really good friend and flatmate). We also had a pile of volunteers, writers, an in-house photographer, distributors and the entire dance music scene hanging around my office.

The magazine itself was very popular, and although it only ran for 2 years in it’s original format, it now has it’s own Facebook page and still has many people who remember it fondly.

I have a saying about those days. They were the best of time, they were the worst of times. I’m paraphrasing Charles Dickens here. But what I mean is that I had the time of my life and was living an heightened experience at the eye of newly emerging subculture. They were the worst of time because I was working with my ex and I was running a business with zero previous experience.

During those two years I made the best friends of my life. And it set me up for a career in graphic design.

My regret is that I haven’t topped it since. I’m still looking for that thing that I am as passionate about as The Core.

I have a webpage where I’ve posted some of the issues:

Day 3 – What do people thank me for?

Today’s topic: What do people thank you for?

They thank me for thinking laterally and being reliable. I’ll explain.

Thinking laterally
I often find solutions to problems that might not be obvious. The solution might not be obvious, but the problem might not be obvious too. People say “oh, we’ve always done it that way, it’s not actually a problem”, then I make a small suggestion and after a while they say “I can’t imagine doing it any other way now”.

This happens both at work and with friends. Intelligent solutions.

Being reliable
This is both with friends and at work, but I think (to me) it’s more obvious at work. If someone really needs a job done, the job done now, the job done quickly, the job done accurately, the job done skillfully, the job done intelligently and the job done completely, I am their go-to guy. I know that when I freelance at a big company there is a scramble among teams to get me on their side.

But friends have also thanked me for being reliable. I think sometimes they are surprised that I am. With friends I can appear somewhat carefree and definitely have a ‘done give a damned’ attitude about life. So when the time comes when they absolutely need me to be reliable, and I always am, they are surprised. It had never occurred to them to rely on me before. And they thank me.

Second post – What makes me angry

As part of the 7-day challenge, I am supposed to get 7 topics to write about. The second topic is “What really makes you angry about the world?”

Woah. Don’t get me started. Lots of things annoy me, but the thing that gets me really angry is stupidity. A willingness to be uneducated, to not learn, to hold on to a point of view in the face of logic.

This can be from small things like the disorganised commuter who is angry with everybody else for getting in her way, and then not realising that everybody else is processing through the various stages of commuting more quickly than her. But in her mind it’s everybody else’s behaviour that’s the problem not her.

Or bigger movements, such as the one in Australia to ‘reclaim the nation’. As the counter argument currently goes ‘descendants of people who stole land and destroyed a culture, protesting against a non-existent invasion to take back a lifestyle they haven’t lost.’

Having now written those two paragraphs I realise it is about people who have no self-awareness. Indeed, my previous post ‘Recent History’ was also about this. One of the problems of accusing people of having no self-awareness is that you have to be sure that you yourself are self-aware.

Of course, there are even bigger examples of deliberate ignorance. People who use their culture or their religion, to steadfastly remain ignorant. They won’t allow education of their people, or even if education is allowed then it is ignored or dismissed because it doesn’t fix in with their ideology. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t defend their own ideology, but when that ideology brings you repression and suffering, why defend it?

Strangely enough, as a child, I always questioned my own stupidity. I always felt that I was never smart. Even when the evidence was to the contrary, i.e. top of almost every class. I think it wasn’t until my mid 20s that I thought that maybe I wasn’t stupid.

Now, possibly I have the opposite problem. Being a little self-aware for a moment, possible I lord my intelligence over other people too much. It might get to be a pain. I don’t think I know everything, but I like to try to find out about many things as much as possible. I am often better informed, especially about obscure subjects, than those around me. So when I do get something wrong, or don’t know something, those around me make a big deal of it. Personally I don’t think it is a big deal. I never claimed to be omniscient.

But then it can make me angry that when I do have the relevant facts, and I present them, they are ignored by someone simply so they can continue on in their mindset. They don’t want to change their mind, so they are not going to listen to anything that will.

Ignorance makes me really angry.

Recent history

This blog is supposed to be about my future. Finding out what I want to do with my life. And I hope that is what it will mainly be about. But for this post I’m going to go over my recent history, and why I am here today writing this blog.

I recently left a job that I had been at for 4 years. The longest time I had stayed at any one job in my life. In one way I knew I had it good there. I had carved out my own little niche. I could come and go as I pleased. But if there was one adjective I would use for my overall workplace it would be “dumb”.

I sort of had three roles at my work, although only one of them was official.

The official one was of “Digital Artworker”, a title created especially for me and part of the Production/Artwork department. This department was separate from the design department. It was my job to do all the web and animation work that came through the agency. The problem was much of the web work was kept within the design department and then farmed out to an external web agency. The other problem was that we weren’t getting very much animation work (or web work for that matter). This was because the partner in charge of New Business didn’t understand digital in the least, and didn’t want to understand it. He wished it was the 90s and that he could only deal with the work that he knew from the 90s. Dumb.

My second, but unofficial, job was that of IT/Office Management. My IT was supposed to be stop gap until we got an proper IT person, but it was obvious they were never intending to get a proper IT person, or spend the money they needed on proper technology. Dumb. The office management bit was that I often found new and better ways to do things that they had just done in dumb ways for years. For example labelling of drawers, instead everything thrown into whatever draw. Sorting out electronic stuff like cords and charges, boxing them and labelling them. Centralised calendar system. Centralised WIP (work in progress). Live TV in the waiting room. Rearrangement of furniture. etc. etc. None of it within my remit, but I seemed to be able to take a look at a situation and make it so much better. Many times colleagues have said that they don’t know what the office would do without me (well, they are finding out now).

The problem with this second job is those at the top didn’t get it. Didn’t understand that IT was a necessity, even though it had been demonstrated to them time and time again the perils of IT failure. And didn’t understand office management. Indeed the aforementioned partner, upon a recent office move, successfully positioned me out of these tasks, made them his responsibility. Not listening to a single person that things might be able to be done in a better way, even when the entire office argued with him. Dumb.

My third, unofficial, job was to pick up all the little crappy job within the artworking department, when I didn’t have much to do in the other 2 jobs. As there was not much coming in through the first job, and indeed I had been maneuvered (whether deliberately or not) out of the second job, much of my time was doing this third crappy job. Stuff that a junior could do. The least satisfying job.

Ultimately I could see all my problems, and indeed many of the agency’s problems all led back to the same person, the aforementioned partner. This is a guy, for whatever reason, just wanted to create an agency that he had had the fantasy about in the 90s. He didn’t want a particularly modern agency (although in his mind it was modern, because in the 90s it was modern). He didn’t want anybody to have other ideas about the agency and he would fight as hard as he could for his vision. This was easier for him, because he had little real work to do. Whereas anyone else in the agency had a full-time job to do, and really couldn’t expend the energy to try to out-maneuver this guy. And he wouldn’t listen to logic. Wouldn’t change his mind. As far as he was concerned he was never wrong. But if you never make mistakes (in your own mind), you never learn. My mantra at the end was “you can’t argue with stupid”.

As far as I could see there were two camps at this workplace. Him, trying to hold all his projects close to his chest, just in case anyone could (probably quite rightly) correct him and point out a better way of doing it. And everyone else, trying to keep him out of their project, lest he screw it up.

He was Peter Griffin from Family Guy. The Pointy Haired Boss from Dilbert.

The slogan of the company was “Design Matters”. And I always added “Because nothing else does”. Not quality. Not accuracy. Not commonsense.

But now that I’ve been away from the business for a while I can add another modifier. Design matters, because creativity doesn’t. The business was supposed to be creative agency. But all the most creative people are nowhere near the creative (design) department. The most creative people were a couple of the client services people, the office manager and me.

The designers, chosen by that partner, are those that have been through design school and approach design in a very particular way. And if they don’t, they are soon indoctrinated in the business’s ways. There is little real creativity.

So I left. And I’ll try not to talk about this business again. I could find another business like this to work in. But I wonder if there is something better for me out there. So instead I’ve taken time off, to reflect and to expand my horizons. More of that in another post.

First post

So I have recently quit my job and I am following a career development website called “Live Your Legend”. There is an associated paid course, which I’m yet to take the plunge. But all the advice that I am getting off LYL has kept me very busy for the last few weeks.

One of its pieces of advice was to start a blog. And its challenge is to write for ten minutes everyday. Fortunately they say they will give me a prompt every day for 7 days. Today’s prompt is: “Tell us your story. Write a few sentences about your story/background, why you decided to start a blog and what you hope to get out of it. Add in something unique an interesting from your story too!”

My story…

I was born at a very early age… ha ha.

My name is Acb, pronounced A C B. I think I have a unique name in the world, and no I won’t explain why.

I’m from Australia but have lived in London for 16 years. Australia feel very small when I go there. I work in the design industry. I have worked for many years in print, and then about 6 years ago started moving over to web and more recently animation.

My question to myself by doing the LYL course is “what do I want to be when I grow up”. I feel that I have been very lazy with my career. I have taken a lot of the easy choices. I know that I am very intelligent. I know this because a) I always maxed out classes at school/uni, and b) people I work with quickly learn that if they don’t know something that I will (or I can quickly work out how to know it).

But I feel I have been lazy with this intelligence. I could have done more. Being an artworker for corporate reports is not a particularly stretching experience. But it has allowed me to live a comfortable life and to go travelling a lot.

They say that writing a blog will start to focus my thoughts, my ambition. I certainly hope so. I was an artworker by default (I felt), and I know from my experiences at my recent left workplaces, that I am quite capable at a whole lot of other things. I can think very laterally, and problem solve, in areas which I’m supposedly not qualified.

So to finish today… some unique and interesting about me…

In a world of 7 billion people, can anyone be that unique. Well I suppose everyone is, but what I mean is remarkable.

I suppose the thing that many people find is, as mentioned, my ability to think laterally. Think outside the box. It gives me an odd sense of humour. And often this means people think I’m strange, even my very best friends. Which I don’t mind. So I’m hoping that the interesting thing about me is intelligence and humour.

First post finished.

Just like Earth, only more so…