Radio Roundabout

Radio Roundabout

The past couple of years we’ve done stupid Christmas things for our friends. Two years ago it was Things Our Friends, last year it was DataDecs, but this year you’re all our friends. (Up to a maximum of 1,500 simultaneous connections. Or so. Engineering aren’t sure.)

Because: on Friday 3pm-5pm GMT (that’s the breakfast show for you people on the West Coast) we’ll be hosting a special festive radio show live on the web. Songs, requests, weather, traffic news and special guests including Matt Biddulph, Matt Sheret and others to be named later. Plus – a special show-within-a-show appearance from Shift Run Stop. All live, you have to be there, no podcast, no listen again.

Festive resquests can go to @radioroundabout. Most details will be there. Then, 3pm Friday, get your eggnog latte and your mince pies together, put your feet up and gather round the warm fire of MOR that will be Radio Roundabout.

DEXTR – Twitter for your second screen

One of the things we’ve been thinking about recently is screens. In Russell’s blog post from last week he alluded to a little thing we’ve been using for a while but hadn’t quite finished off for public consumption.

All the chatter around the fantastic BERG/Dentu films last week reminded us to get it out the door, and here it is:


DEXTR is a full screen Twitter client. It shows one tweet at a time, filling the screen. And it accelerates and decelerates depending on how fast your Twitter stream is going.

It’s a bit of an experiment. A way of learning about ambient screens — seeing what works and what doesn’t. Is it too bright, too fast, too annoying? Or maybe just too quiet and forgettable. What’s the right kind of screen, in the right kind of place to put this on? And does anyone even want anything like this, or are we trying to fill all these media surfaces with something, anything?

There’s one known problem – iOS devices turn the screen off after a few minutes of inactivity in Safari. There doesn’t seem to be a way around that for web applications – we’ll have to wrap it in a proper iOS application to stop that.

We’ve got some ideas about how this could develop, but for now this is a beta, and we’d love to hear what you think.

weeknotes – first two weeks of June

Exciting news! Ben and Tom have discovered that I’ve been writing these and have sent me lists of what they’ve been doing (censored to remove sensitive client information, with additional notes from me in italics)


Launched this.

Worked on a new homepage.

Went to the D&AD awards, where NC was In Book but no Pencil.

Did some work on a secret project codename: Common Garden Bird (which we can now reveal is

Went jousting because it was half term.

Cut things out and stuck them on big foam core boards.

Finished the design of the NC homepage.

Had serious meetings with our frivolous investors.

Discussed Nike Grid 2.

Visited a Media Company.


Cycled 400km. Slept under the stars.

New front page on Newspaper Club. Some work behind the scenes fixing boring bugs/adjustments.

Plotted a workshop with Tinker. (We’re planning on doing a series of Post-Digital Workshops in collaboration with our friends at Tinker. Want to come?)

Stared longingly at my plotter.

All of which makes me feel rather underemployed. Because all I’ve done is write some PowerPoint for a large sports related organisation, have some meetings and write some stuff for Wired and Campaign. Ah well. Onwards.

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.

weeknotes – the story so far

This is the new Really Interesting Group blog. We’re going to start doing weeknotes from now on but we thought we’d better start with the big events up to date and some general scene-setting.


We started Newspaper Club about a year ago. That seems to be going well. More of that later.

We did DataDecs at Christmas. That seemed to go well too but we’ve not done anything with the idea since. We need to get on with that. Similarly we made S3FM a while ago and while there’s definitely something in it we need to work out exactly what it is. We’ve been rather consumed with Newspaper Club.

We’ve also done a ton of client projects:

We did some thinking about objects for Radio 4 and about events for BBC 4. We’ve done work for Nike, Nokia and The Guardian via Wieden+Kennedy. We’ve done strategic and design work for Innocent, Penguin and Umbro. And we’ve done something for Apple but we’re not allowed to talk about it.


When we started RIG one of our plans was to find a place where we could bring interesting people together (other than us) and we seem to have managed that too.

BERG and Ruby Pseudo are formal tenants. Chris Heathcote, Phil Gyford and James Bridle are renters of desks and Tinker are in an office upstairs. It’s nice.


We are Ben, a designer, Tom, a developer and Russell, who does a lot of PowerPoint.