All Posts Filed in ‘Updates

2015_07_16 Dresden
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Open for business

It feels like a long time since I’ve rolled up the sleeves, dusted off the text editor and put pen to paper here. Yes, yes, I know — we’re all very busy. But it seems that 2015 has been the year of unsurpassed leaps and bounds, taking me deep into vast and uncharted territory. The best part is, I have no idea how we got here and no intention of ever seeking a way back!

In short, dear friends: I have much to report.

Let’s start with the farewells. After roughly two years at the helm of BrightHearts for iOS, in July 2015 I resigned as a company Director & will no longer be actively involved going forward. This was a tough decision to make for several reasons, the biggest being that I felt that we simply hadn’t reached our goals for BrightHearts & this kind of unrealised potential can weigh heavily on the mind. I was also concerned that leaving the company at this stage would place a burden on my co-founder George, potentially crippling the app further still.

I’d been mulling these factors over for some time when I understood two key insights that helped me realise I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.

  1. By considering myself irreplaceable, I’d placed an artificial barrier to the app’s growth and success. Why should the app be fuelled by myself alone? Developer talent is indeed hard to come by, but I don’t hold any hidden secrets or magical powers to make great things happen; and
  2. Over time I’d noticed myself feeling less driven to create new features, to fix apparent bugs, to explore new approaches to the app or it’s business model mechanics. I found myself letting go, explaining away small problems or lamenting the amount of time I was pouring into a project that wasn’t growing as fast as I thought it could.

I had fallen out of love with the project. These insights told me something important – that I was certainly not helping BrightHearts achieve greatness, perhaps that I was even hindering it’s future.

Time to say goodbye.

Given all this, I’m very pleased to say that my former business partner George has found a bright young developer to help him build the next phase of the app, Trent Brooks. I worked closely with Trent during the handover period.I can see him taking the app into new places I might not have even imagined. George is an incredibly driven guy, curious and insightful and I look forward to watching the next chapter unfold.

***

Now to new beginnings. Over the past 18 months Bruce Jeffreys and I have been building a new company, from scratch, that is literally changing the face of eyewear in Australia.

We’re called Dresden and we’re here to make eyewear simpler and more affordable than ever before.

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So what’s the deal with Dresden? I’ll give you the skinny: for too long, too few players have dominated the global optical industry. We’ve become accustomed to spending a lot of money on fragile, easily lost spectacles that are also rapidly out-of-season. We thought this was madness, when we were customers. We thought surely it doesn’t have to be like this. We thought we could do it better.

The irony is that the benchmark for a good eyewear customer experience has been set so low by the major retailers, that industry novices such as ourselves have a real chance to shine.

At Dresden you don’t buy a pair of glasses, you buy into a system of eyewear unlike any other. Our frames are designed with interchangeability at the core: we’ve simplified eyewear into four sizes (XS, S, M & L), which can swapped with ease.

Let’s say you have what’s known in the biz as a fat head*. No sweat, our Large frames are exactly that, Large. If you also happen to need shorter arms, we can swap them for you in seconds.

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It really is this simple

Best of all, a pair of Dresden prescription glasses will only set you back $49 AUD.

Also, if we have your lenses in stock, we can make them for you, while you wait. Yep, brand new eyeware in just minutes.

All of our frames are made locally, at a manufacturing facility in Lakemba. We found a partner who saw something great in us and wanted to be a part of our story – Astor Industries. For Astor, we’re another small thread in a growing tapestry that spells the resurgence of Australian manufacturing. For us, they’ve opened our eyes to a world of self-sufficiency and locally sourced products that we never dreamed possible.

2015_07_16 Dresden

Since opening our first store in Newtown four months ago, the response from the public has been phenomenal. Before launching, we shared as much as we dared with our friends and family members. But opening doors to the public – to random strangers – is another thing altogether. It really is the litmus test of the business concept. Will people accept the premise? Will they find our colours appealing? Will they want to tell their friends? Will they be nice to us? You can never really know how a retail concept will work.

Needless to say, it’s going very well and we’re already planning the next phase of Dresden. I have some pretty special news for you on that front – but I’ll save that for another time.

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Dresden is something truly special. We spent the better part of a year perfecting the design of our eyewear range, choosing the perfect materials to use and honing our skills at high quality manufacturing — right here in Sydney. We’ve been remarkably fortunate to have met an incredible group of people who believed in the idea from the very beginning (even if they thought we were a little bit nutty) and who have done everything they could to shape Dresden into something special. Lucky is not even an understatement.

Dresden simply wouldn’t be what it is today without this small group of yeasayers who dared to dream big.

It’s not often that a startup can enjoy the luxury of three key ingredients: a hungry market, an outstanding product and a truly kickass team, but we’ve been able to do just that. As our systems guru Isaac would say: it’s “oh my god” stuff. We’re just having too much fun with this company.

***

As I’m writing this, I can’t help but notice a difference in mood, in timbre, between the first part and the second. The truth is that I’ve found my calling in Dresden, it’s grown from simply being a project to being the project, one that I look forward to building, learning growing for many years to come.

If you’ve recently wondered, “where’s Jason hiding?”, well now you know.

I’m not hiding, I’m open for business. Come say hallo, one day.

The first Dresden workshop can be found at;
417A King Street, Newtown NSW 2042
Our phone number is 1300 535 110, or email newtown@dresden.com.au if you’d like to learn more.

Check out Dresden Optics to see our range.

*seriously, people confess these things to us, openly

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Progress reporting

Lately I’ve been working my way through an academic requirement for all phd students at UTS, which involves submitting a progress reports on my work each and every semester. These reports are essentially a simple 4-page form but require an appended (also 4 page) report outlining what you set out to do, what you achieved and what you’ll be doing next semester. It’s a standard activity and from the outset fairly banal, however going through this again was quite nice given just how much has actually happened in the last few months.So, in light of this output of events I think it’s high time I gave a quick update on what’s what in the world of interactive research. The following notable things have happened in the last few months;

Joanne Jakovich and I co-wrote a paper called Realtime Response on our research work in the Computational Environments architecture design studio and a small installation we designed called Filtration Fields. The paper was presented at the inaugural Seam: Spatial Phrases Symposium in Sydney during September, which marked a) the first paper I’d had the chance to work on and b) the first conference I’d had the opportunity to present at. These two facts meant that I was fairly anxious prior to the event and unsure as to how it would all play out, but the Seam crowd were very gracious and asked all the questions I didn’t anticipate. The feedback from Seam was most interesting, some of the more predominant questions were completely unrelated to the architectural implications (I believe) my work implies, however they did prompt a flurry of thoughts surrounding interesting digital-social issues such as data privacy and ethics.  I also had the chance to meet the fascinating mind that is Josh Harle, who’s working on his own phd over at UNSW with Russell Lowe and Richard Goodwin.

Next I was invited to collaborate on a paper with UTS design, architecture and innovation Professor Tom Barker, UTS post-doctoral researcher Hank Haeusler and a colleague of mine Frank Maguire, this time writing on the interface design research and issues surrounding the Janus project (titled Investigating Political and Demographic Factors in Crowd-Based Interfaces). This paper was written for the upcoming OzCHI conference taking place next week in Melbourne, and happily it was also accepted. I will be heading down to Melbourne to present this paper with Frank, so if you’re in Melbourne or attending the conference I look forward to seeing you down there! I’ll be attending the Tuesday workshop on street computing and presenting our paper on Friday.

Following on the same paper writing theme, last week I was in contact with architecture graduate Ben Coorey and Anthony Burke, senior lecturer in the architecture faculty at UTS, to join in writing a paper on the 2008 Master of Digital Architecture master-class known as Street As Platform. The studio was run primarily by Dan Hill (of Arup and cityofsound.com renown), Anthony and Mitchell Whitelaw, who joined us from ANU in Canberra. Ben was one of the key students in the studio, so with the team complete we all attacked the paper from our particular perspectives. The paper has been submitted to the CAADRIA 2010 (The Association for Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia) conference next April in Hong Kong, and focused on the issues surrounding the realtime street as an alternative design analysis model to GIS or agent-based modeling. This paper was a bit more short notice so I expect we’ll go through another round of edits to massage the text but for now it’s all done and dusted.

All of these papers are either in the process of being indexed and published, or still in development, so I can’t put them on here, but if and when I can I will.

In addition to these efforts at publishing research I’ve been involved with, I’ve also been trying to work on my actual phd! At this point that has amounted to lots of work and not as much written outcome, however I’m taking steps to change this ratio. Meanwhile I’ve been working quite hard on a number of fronts – some visual/interface/technologically related and others are more involved in demonstrating my prototype projects to whomsoever happens to be in the studio at any point. The Interactivation studio at UTS (run by my phd supervisor and where I spend most of my time) has been host to many guests lately and it has been a concerted effort to keep things running and demonstrable at any time. Some of my work has made it on to this site recently, but I do aim to upload more in the near future. Certainly there have been a number of interesting finds related to simplifying techniques (translate: doing things much better than we did previously!) and fulfilling discussions on where we see this research leading us in the future. All very good food for thought and I really should do more of my bit to share.

So that’s the end of the academic progress reporting. The conclusion so far? Progress is good! I thought I’d done roughly about the amount I planned on doing, but my supervisor thought I’d done more – so far I’d say the going is good and I’ll let you know if that changes!

One more thing – I’ve also recently had a major change in my work/study balance, but I’ll wait for another day to mention any more – it’s good news but good news can wait.

dokuwiki
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dokuWiki Snafu

Solved!
Lately I’ve been configuring and (almost) loving the ease of use and simplicity of my brand new wiki. However, there have been some serious teething problems, which have not gone unnoticed.  If the wiki page does not load, you know that I have not yet solved my problems!The wiki page problems have been resolved and I will be using my wiki to post ideas, projects, working solutions and anything else that seems relevant to my research work.  Anyway, you can read all about my former problems below..

Back-story
Having only ever seen the power of the wiki through the consistent use of wikipedia, I had no inkling of the incredible flexibility and strength allowed by the community built web model.  Once I made the decision to get serious with my online visibility (facebook alone doesn’t really cut it!) I investigated the various ways in which I could execute, with this wordpress blog being one of them.  DokuWiki immediately caught my attention as a flexible, extensible and remarkably powerful web platform to use for my project work, collaborative projects and even as a file storage/blogging medium.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out dokuWiki, or even the available list of dokuWiki plugins I would highly recommend it.Just for your info, dokuWiki uses php scripts to load pages, which are saved as simple .txt files on your webserver. You can embed php and html in your pages, so badges and other such things (video, maps etc) will work very easily.  It also supports the fantastic page creation technique (make a link to a new page, click on the link, choose the ‘would you like to create this page?’ option and voila! your new page is ready to go) which makes life a whole lot nicer for dynamic content.

Rude Awakening
Having said all that, i think it’s safe to say that the honeymoon period is over (I’m happy again!).  After a few false starts, I managed to change the colour of the link text in my template file (hoorah) and a few other things, before fiddling a little bit further and breaking my wiki!  One of the settings in the config page was to canonise and use nice html URL’s for each page (instead of the php?-pagename that comes as standard), which I thought was a great idea at the time.  Within seconds of selecting these options and saving the config, my wiki pages all directed themselves to sometimes non-existant pages in this blog!Whilst I had considered this to be a nice ‘feature’ to be turned on at a later date, my entire wiki points variously to bits of my blog.  Not happy.

I’m currently reinstalling and resetting my wiki in the hope that it will solve these issues, and I will update this blog with the news as it breaks.These issues have been fixed!  Back to the simple life of creating, updating and wiki-ing on the fly!

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Skinform in the flesh

An update on Skinform:

Earlier this year Joanne Jakovich and I ran a studio in the new Master of Architecture program at UTS, named Computational Environments. The major project completed by the students was the Skinform project, which ironically enough has taken on a life of its’ own. After having completed the project and installed it for the end of semester exhibition, the project has also been installed separately at UTS. The project was slated to be seen lately at the Sydney Architecture Festival at Customs House, however due to inclement weather the installation was called off.

Thanks to some quick thinking and generous SAF organisation we were able to install a small mock-up inside ground floor of Customs House and demonstrate it verbally with an unsuspecting public. The demonstration went very well, thanks to some dedicated students and inquisitive members of the public, so the outlook is good for another installment of the Skinform in the foreseeable future. Keep your eyes peeled.