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weeknotes – last week of May

I just asked Ben what he’s been doing this week. He said ‘approving banners and shelf-wobblers’. Tom said ‘newspaper club mostly’. I’ve been writing quite a lot of PowerPoint. Basically, we’ve been doing work.


The Innocent Consumer Cam experiment seemed to go quite well last Saturday. You can watch a timelapse video here.


The weather’s been nice. And we’ve had interesting visitors come to the office.


Some weeks you just do work.

Innocent AGM Cam – The Science Bit


It’s Saturday morning, and I’m remotely watching a policeman walk along Goldhawk Road taken by a man wearing a climbing helmet with an iPhone sellotaped to the front. More specifically, I’m at Innocent’s AGM, loitering around to make sure that the headcam we built stays working. And it seems to be so far.

This seems like a good opportunity to talk about what it is, and how it works. In true Really Interesting Group style, it’s one of those projects that isn’t rocket science, but combines a few thing that are “recently easy” (ubiquitous mobile data, easy to develop mobile software) to create something new, and dare I say it, interesting.


You’ve seen Russell’s industrial design, but let’s talk about the software. It’s pretty simple: a custom iPhone app that snaps a photos at an adjustable interval and upload it direct to Flickr. Then there’s a site that polls Flickr and Twitter and interweaves the updates into a stream.

Every time a photo gets taken, we resize it in memory, add the timestamp and location to the EXIF headers, write it to disk, and queue for upload.

Most of the Flickr upload code was ripped out of Noticings, where its proved to be fairly robust. Dealing with variable data reception is the hardest part. For a start, we’re resizing images down to 800×600 at 60% quality. This brings the file size down to about 80KB, rather than 800KB or so that the full size images would be.

The biggest problem I can see so far is that occasionally duplicate images get uploaded. This is because the 3G data connection can timeout out in the period between finishing sending the file to Flickr, and Flickr resizing the photos and returning a successful response. Next time, I’d use the asynchronous upload API, and poll for the state of the previous uploads before continuing.

But you don’t get much chance to battle test these things, and having duplicate uploads is safer than unproven asynchronous upload code.

The battery life was slightly less than we hoped – in a test, the 3GS did a full burn of the battery in 2 hours 50 minutes, whilst taking a photo every 3 minutes and uploading to Flickr, but without GPS. With an external battery pack and the screen brightness set to minimum, we got that to just over 6 hours including GPS, but it’s still going to need charging if the headcam is going to make it all the way home.

Luke has just upped the interval to 1 minute for the duration of the event, so lets hope that the data connection doesn’t lag behind.

We’d like to release the iPhone app for the headcam – it needs some polishing up, but hopefully you’ll see it in the App Store before too long. Climbing helmet and sellotape not included.

And you can follow all the updates during the day on the


weeknotes – third week of May

quick trip to falmouth

On Monday I took the train to Falmouth to talk to the advertising MA students and others. It was a slightly rambly talk but seemed to go OK. It was especially nice to get my feet in the sea on a work day.


We handed the AGMConsumerCam over to Innocent on Tuesday. As you can see the construction is fairly basic. We originally intended to make the final version more solid, perhaps using a hinge, some bolts and some sugru. But it was obvious that was going to be get very heavy and we wanted something instantly repairable – assuming a very high likelihood of some sort of damage. So it’s just lego, cardboard and a gogo. So, if necessary it’s entirely user-repairable.

consumercam prototyping

Obviously the clever bit is the App, Tom’ll write more about that next week. You can watch things unfold tomorrow here.

Other than that, Ben’s been doing stuff for The Guardian, Tom and I have done a project on archives and audio for the BBC that we’re not sure if we’re allowed to talk about and Tom’s been to a print industry trade-show for Newspaper Club which he’ll blog about here.

kinda sorta media

kinda sorta media


not yet though, hopefully

business expiration dates


weeknotes – second week of May

What have we done? Hmm.

Russell talked at Lift at the end of last week, look, here’s the video:

As part of that he asked our friends at Tinker to build a Big Red Button for the advancement of PowerPoint slides. It seemed to be quite popular so we’re going to partner with Tinker to make some and put some on sale. If you’d like one you can declare your interest here.

battery testing apparatus

And Russell and Tom have been working on the ConsumerCam for the Innocent AGM. Well, Tom’s been writing all sorts of clever code to make iPhone Apps and websites, Russell’s been sellotaping phones to hats. You can see our various tests here.

We’ve been doing a lot of Newspaper Club stuff. We’ve met with logistics suppliers and talked a lot about business plans. We’ve had a record week for revenue and Ben’s done a smart new homepage design which should be up soon.

And, on Wednesday, we shared small plastic glasses of champagne with our friends BERG, next door, who released Schooloscope which is awesome.