Making things is hard, but, as Beeker points out, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. And we've been doing a bit of trying in the last couple of days.
Inspired by the likes of NPR's Serendipity Days we had an R/GA Make Day all day on Tuesday, with some finishing up and presentations on Wednesday. Except we didn't limit it to developers - everyone had to make something. Something that would make life at R/GA easier or more interesting. It was excellent fun. And rather inspiring.
Some of the tech stuff presented was, of course, hugely impressive, but the best bits, for me, were when people who'd never done anything like this before stepped up, had really good ideas and presented them really well.
I didn't get great pictures, I was too busy keeping everyone to their three minute demo/presentation slot but, as I remember, the ideas presented were:
A second-screen. ambient-dashboard client-news info thing to go in reception.
A Creative SOW - a way of keeping people focused on the creative idea we're supposed to be working on.
A low-fi way of keeping track of an agency bike to transport us between our two offices.
A face-recognition system for checking into office locations, declaring those locations to people who need to know, implemented across the web, ambient displays and a Windows 8 tablet.
A sensor equipped biscuit tin that sounded a loud alarm when the last biscuit was removed.
'The Happiness Project' - a magic tent you could go inside which would make you happy.
A pattern matching system that converted text into images so it could be processed on the GPU rather than the CPU, and then did something clever with them - sentiment matching maybe?. I didn't quite understand this one.
A new manual designed to help you understand our legendarily arcane expenses system.
A lunch database and dining companion-finding app based around various R/GA locations.
A global planning database: type in a country - get latest, most reputable information on all sorts of social and technological measures for that country. With sources!
A mobile game that organises tea and coffee orders and lets you play against other people to determine who has to make them.
Something like Nike+ for sitting. A sensor equipped chair which monitors and logs your posture and sitting time, advises you to sip up straight and when to take a break.
A live updating feed of client news.
A RFID checkin system for meeting rooms - gamifying punctuality.
A simple system for capturing and framing creative work we've done and displaying to people via the splendidly old-fashioned medium of framed posters.
A guide to local restaurants implemented as a Facebook app. (I think?)
A twitter-based way to send songs as gifts from one R/GA location to another - playing via specially themed animals. Send you tweet with the right hashtag and song title and location and it plays in that location.
An already implemented programme of discounts and deals at local restaurants, deploying group buying power to secure tasty meals for under a tenner.
An HR database that lets you search across the network and find the people with the skills and experience you need for whatever you're working on. Also seemed to include dating.
A twitter driven Lego Mindstorms robot controlled by sending colour signals to an iphone screen and letting the Mindstorms colour sensors read them and steer.
I think that's everything. Apologies if I've missed anything. Some of these things are sitting out on the web right now but I'd better make sure it's OK before I link to them.
It was good. Highly recommended. Worth playing at home.
The best things in Neal Stephenson's Reamde are the aesthetic coalitions that emerge in his virtual world "The Forces Of Brightness" and "The Earthtone Coalition". As soon as you read that, you see those opposing tendencies everywhere.
Tom and I were talking this morning about a new thing we're trying to push out of Newspaper Club - a way to let people easily transfer their individual reading from screen to newspaper. We realised that some people instinctively want to do that - they want to materialise stuff. And some instinctively don't - they want all their stuff to evanesce (as Adam puts it). And you can't really predict who will be drawn to what. Of course it's a sweeping generalisation, but that feels like an aesthetic divide as big and clear as FOB v EC.