New adventures

At the end of this month, Fiona and I will be leaving our jobs and our home in Sheffield to go travelling around Europe for three or four months.

I’ve been working at Folksy and Rattle for five years, doing some great projects and working with fun and talented people. There’s lots to be proud of, and lots of lessons to take with me.

Over the five years, I’ve been lucky to work on a very a varied roster of work. Looking back, two of the things I’m most proud of are quite different from each other. My Life As An Object was a creative project, stemming from my conceit of imagining how museum objects would behave online (perhaps inspired by Night at the Museum?).

On the other side of the spectrum, Channelography was a technology project, originating from a hack when I figured out how to extract subtitles from BBC iPlayer. That turned into a long-lasting data analysis project, spawning a printed booklet and a real time visual dashboard, and after two years was adopted into the BBC’s Research & Development team.

Aside from the client work, I’ve also had the chance to work with Folksy, seeing it mature from start-up to a proper SME. One of the nicest things about Folksy is that is has a real community of users, and so it’s hugely satisfying to be able to ship features that are used and appreciated immediately by thousands of people.

As well as coding, I played a bit of a UX role, identifying pain points and designing improved experiences. The scariest bit of work was introducing a whole new payment tier, an annually paid account vs the existing pay-as-you-go model, which meant integrating with a new Direct Debit payment provider, as well as selling the benefits to the customer base. Thankfully, it worked perfectly, both technically and business wise, now accounting for a significant proportion of revenue.

Both Folksy and Rattle have a great future ahead of them, and I know the teams will continue to innovate and take bold new strides. If you get the chance to work with either, you definitely should.

As for myself, I’m looking forward to spending some time in warmer weather, taking a break from technology. Our adventure starts with a ferry to Santander in Northern Spain, from where we’ll be driving around Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, camping in remote locations. We’ll spend much of the time hiking, in national parks I’ve not been to before including the Picos de Europa, Peneda-Gerês, the Pyrenees, Sierra Nevada and Cévennes. Along the way we’ll be cooking with local ingredients, and hopefully meeting some interesting people.

I’ve nothing lined up for when we return (in mid July), which is exciting rather than daunting, as it leaves me open to new opportunities. We’ll likely move to London, and I’ll be exploring different options, from freelancing to a full time job – possibly even a start-up of my own.

Sheffield has been fun – we’ll miss the Peak District, the local cafes and shops we’ve come to know and love, and the great new friends we have made here (don’t worry, we’ll keep in touch).

It’s time though, for something new. Bring it on.