The Arduino/Raspberry Pi Challenge

When you’re responsible for technology, sometimes it can become all too… tactical. You begin to quickly get to “the solution” place and by the time you’re reading this, we’ve already arrived at the end and are just waiting for you to get here. It’s an engineering trap. Forgetting you’re creative. Forgetting that you have a spark, or a natural curiosity; a desire to create things, build stuff. Sometimes you simply forget to come up for air and look around and smell the proverbial flowers.

So one of the first things I did when I took over Creative Technology, Database, and Analytics for JWT was work very hard to focus on the idea, “sure, you’re a developer, I get it… you’re an engineer, but you build stuff… you’re inherently creative and you work in a creative environment… embrace that shit”. I wanted my gang to enjoy using the right side of their brains. So I offered them up a little somethin’ somethin’ to get their creative juices flowing: I would buy anyone who wanted to sign up a Raspberry Pi and Arduino and let them do anything they wanted. Client related, not client related, fun, experimental, new… whatever they wanted. The only catch was, you had to come back in 90 days and give a presentation on your project. You had to tell us what your big idea was, what inspired you, and how you did it… oh, and you had to demo your project.

Five teams signed up. I was impressed right off the bat that it wasn’t individuals that signed up, but that my offer spawned several conversations among like-minded, organic groups (who, I might add, didn’t normally work together… so there’s that!) that evolved into formal ideas. There was a demonstration of Raspberry Pi running Xbox Media Center (XBMC), the open source Home Theater Software. A terrific idea involving geo-fencing/mapping, and outdoor location. One of my lead developers put together a demo/presentation of a larger idea for a “Holiday Card” that could potentially bridge the gap between two remote locations in a fun, engaging, and ultimately very impressive manner (that one I kept in my back pocket. As soon as I saw the idea I just told everyone in the room, “okay, we’re building THAT one this Christmas… you watch”). An iPhone powered paintball gun that was one of the highlights of the demonstration and created such an active discussion in the room, that it went from “An iPhone Powered Paintball Gun” to a “Twitter Powered T-Shirt Cannon” in less than five minutes. Finally, one of the engineers on my team who’s perhaps the quietest person I’ve ever met (he literally sits all the way in the back corner of the office) decided to take my offer of gratis computer power, marry it with a couple of hundred dollars worth of hardware and create a Microsoft Kinect powered, wi-fi enabled, remote controlled car. The beauty of this idea was that you didn’t even need to be in the same room as the car. The car contained all the computational power and network capability, and using node.js, was able to maintain a connection to a remote server that was coordinating the motion and movement. Theoretically, you could control a remote-controlled car on the other side of the world using just your body.

Crazy shit, right?

I relish my technology leadership role, but too often it can become mired in the tactical. The “throw it over the fence and build it” that sort of naturally occurs in these environments with their deadlines and requirements. It’s not bad. It’s the job. It’s just that sometimes it’s nice to stop and smell the roses.

Adobe Max 2010 – A peek inside my conference schedule.

As I mentioned last week, I’m attending the Adobe Max Conference this year in Los Angeles, and I’m really excited. As it gets closer and closer to Saturday, I’m gearing up to blog more and more, culminating in what’s essentially going to be a non-stop blog-tacular beginning on Saturday (the 23rd) and ending on Thursday (the 28th) of next week.

I plan on posting as much as I can in as many media formats as I can possibly squeeze into an already jam-packed schedule.

Speaking of schedule, I took the liberty of dropping my agenda below for you to check out. As you can see, it generally begins early enough, and runs continually through most days ending fairly late in the evening. It looks to be a couple of 12+ hour days with activities and sessions scheduled throughout most of my time out west. Now you can see why I get so excited about the conference and why I’m looking forward to it so much. It’s basically 24-hours-a-day immersion into all things Web/Interactive. If you do what I do for a living, and you do it where I do it, this is essentially the Super Bowl of Interactive Development.

Take a moment and give it a once over. If anything jumps out at you that you’d like to see me blog or write about specifically, by all means contact me directly and let me know what it is you’d like me to blog/video-blog about and I’ll make sure I give it the ol’ college try.

I’m really looking forward to trying my hand at video-blogging some of this stuff to try and get a more spontaneous-off-the-top-of-my-head reaction to the stuff I’ll see and do. Fingers crossed. If not, rest assured I’ll be writing until my hands fall off. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 24, 2010
9:00 am – 5:00 pm Creating Engaging Websites with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Web Premium
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Adobe Design Achievement Awards
Monday, October 25, 2010
9:30 am – 11:30 am General Session: Welcome to the Revolution
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Dreamweaver and HTML5 & Javascript Based Widgets
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm From Design to CSS and HTML with Fireworks and Dreamweaver
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm Creating Interactive Rich Media Advertising Campaigns with Video
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm Sponsor Welcome Reception
8:00 pm – 10:00 pm Meet the Teams
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
8:30 am – 9:30 am Using Web Fonts Now
10:00 am – 12:00 pm General Session: User Experience: The Next Generation
1:30 pm – 2:30 pm The Future of Advertising
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm Best Practices: Working with Flash Catalyst CS5 and Adobe Design Applications
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm Sneak Peeks
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
8:30 am – 10:00 am AIR for Android: Discovering the Magic
11:00 am – 12:30 pm Designing with Fireworks
1:30 pm – 5:30 pm Adobe AIR Code Camp