The last 12 months have brought huge opportunities and complex challenges to the Technology team here at Odopod. We have produced some amazing work and our development services seem to be more in demand than ever. Staffing to meet this demand is one of my biggest challenges. I spend roughly 25% of my time recruiting developers with the necessary skills, work habits and personality to match our culture. The competition is fierce for developers in this job market. What's more, we insist on some unique qualities in our programmers that add to the recruitment challenge.
I don't know if every Director of Technology thinks their developers are special, but I certainly do. Very few resumes make it past our talent scout and into to my inbox. Fewer still are invited to interview. This isn't because we're looking for particular schooling or insist that candidates have experience working with big name clients or companies. However, we look for candidates with qualities that you might not associate with developers. There isn't an exact formula, but here is a bit more about these qualities beyond technical aptitude that exemplify the typical Odopod developer.
More than anything, I look for developers who are passionate about technology and the work they do. For these folks, technology was a hobby long before it became a profession. They are voracious learners who tap the online community for information on tools and methodologies. They follow thought-leaders on Twitter, read blogs, and spend time looking at relevant websites to stay in touch with the community. They attend conferences, take classes, and usually have a personal project happening on the side. They share these learnings with other developers and the rest of the company, contributing insights from their experiences and code they think others can use.
The Internet of Things is comprised of networked objects with sensors and actuators. These objects observe their environment and share the data they collect with each other, Internet servers and people. This data is analyzed and the results are used to make decisions and affect change. Change may come from a connected object making adjustments in the environment, or it may come after the collected information is analyzed further by a person.
Odopod has several clients involved in the Internet of Things space and we've worked with them in a variety of ways including brand and marketing work, product and service development and connected object prototyping.
We recently lead a workshop with one of these clients, exploring ways that their household products could benefit from being connected to the Internet. Several of their products are already connected to each other and the Internet, we helped them uncover new opportunities to push these products beyond pure utility and to find ways to do and say something new.
To get things started we reviewed four themes that come up most often in Odopod's work around the Internet of Things.
1. The quantified self.
At this year’s Planningness Conference, Guthrie (Director of Brand and Strategy at Odopod) and I lead a session on Connected Personal Objects, where we explored how the Internet of Things can drive a virtuous cycle of learning and change based on the collection and analysis of data.
Tracking performance as a guide for change is not a new idea. Companies use data to improve business processes as well as product marketing. Athletes and medical professionals collect biometric data to optimize performance and patient treatment. What's more, an increasing number of non-professionals are collecting information about themselves, looking for patterns in order to positively impact their lives. In all cases, the mechanisms employed range from pen and paper to high-tech devices coupled with data mining.
There is no question that the Internet of Things makes it easier and easier for us to learn from our actions. Many products provide customers with direct access to the information from which they can draw their own conclusions. Increasingly, these products will be bundled with services to perform more detailed analysis and deliver simple, actionable recommendations.
For example, most services that track athletic performance such as running collect data and report extensive information about current and past runs. Future services will take things further. Based on deeper analysis, these services will be able to set optimal diet and workout plans as well as provide real-time coaching based on your individual training goals and performance history.
I was fortunate to be able to attend the Eyeo Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The conference, now in its second year, bills itself as the intersection of art, interaction and information.
While my role at Odopod is that of a developer, this is not a developer's conference. It's not about libraries, frameworks or programming languages. Here, data is king. I know that the term has many meanings and may be a little vague or scary to some people. That's what makes Eyeo such a unique event. This is a conference exploring how data of all kinds can inspire design and how design, in turn, can shape data and give it meaning. It can be personal data, it can be government data, it can be weather data, it can be random data - it can be anything! Founded on this unique premise, Eyeo has quickly become the event of the year for people who make their living by or are interested in data visualization. There were also talks that touched on topics including art, design, creative coding, and human-computer interaction.
Over the past twelve months, Odopod has worked with a few Kinect prototypes using open source drivers in conjunction with Processing and Flash.
The most robust examples have leveraged the full body (aka skeleton) tracking provided by the OpenNI and Prime Sense NITE libraries. Unfortunately, this level of tracking requires people to pose like they're about to get a pat down from airport security. Even if you just want to track a single hand, it requires a socially awkward wave to the camera.
In February, Microsoft released the Windows version of the Kinect hardware as well as its Kinect for Windows SDK and license. The hardware itself is only nominally different, supporting experiences that are closer than possible with the XBOX hardware. The software, however enables full skeleton tracking without the need to strike any particular pose. In fact the recognition is instantaneous.
Pictured above, some of the passionate creators at SAY Media’s Create conference this year:
2. Susan Lyne, Chairman of Gilt Groupe discusses ecommerce combined with editorial content
3. Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not A Gadget, muses how advanced media technologies could deeply affect advertising experiences
4. "Meet the Editors" panel with Ted Rheingold: Dogster, Jane Pratt, Ed Levine: Serious Eats
Recently, I participated in SAY Media’s Create conference with an inspiring group of passionate people who are all creating amazing content and building culture around the things they love.
The event got me thinking about the future of media — and how brands can best position themselves alongside “passionate” content to foster more meaningful connections with their customers.
Media creation and consumption continues to fracture and expand into every conceivable space. What once were a few trusted sources has become an ever-expanding universe of niche players. Never before has there been more content available in more places. However, consumers and creators are often overwhelmed, finding it difficult to know what’s relevant, and to connect with others who care about the same things they do.
For brand marketers, this landscape has become frightfully convoluted, proving to be a difficult ground to find reliable tactics for consistent success — particularly when it comes to connecting meaningfully with their target audiences.
So, how are people discovering media today? What draws them in? What inspires them to engage and what compels them to come back for more?
We learned a lesson pretty early on as we tried to figure out what to do with our live stream on FWATV: if you want to make something cool, give it to the nerds.
Since we've given our development team the camera and the freedom to do with it whatever they wished, we've gotten nothing but exceptionally cool experiments in live video by hooking up Processing and Kinect applications to our feed.
We've applied various "filters" that react to movement in our studio space. To name a few, we've had a filter that makes the scene look like a giant, moving painting, a filter that applies tiny bursts of pink bubbles that appear when anyone moves, and a Kinect application enabling odopodders to draw via hand tracking.
Check out the gallery of filters we've used so far and tune in each Thursday from 2-3pm PST on FWATV as we continue to experiment with live video using Processing, Kinect, and whatever else we can dream up.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Eyeo Festival, a gathering of the world's best data visualizers, creative coders, and other like-minded folks. Over three packed days, sessions tackled thought-provoking topics such as the role of data visualization in social justice and how the seemingly absurd can contribute towards the greater good. Speakers presented groundbreaking work, some for the first time. Interspersed were workshops ranging from an introductory course to physical computing with the SparkFun ProtoSnap Arduino board, to a hands-on "conditional drawing" lab. In all, it was an incredibly inspiring experience.
Energized by the conference, I took a quick stab at making a few of my own visualization experiments, focusing on the subjects closest at hand: fellow employees at Odopod. Here’s an example of one question I attempted to answer: Assuming work begins at 10AM, what does everyone's morning commute look like? Using self-reported data from Odopod's own, I was able to plot a simplified visualization of the daily morning migration.
What you’re seeing is a simplified map of the Bay Area, with the starting points of various Odopod employees, flashing as they leave the house in the morning. Hover on the dots to reveal who they represent, click & drag the bar graph to scrub through the timeline. In a future version, we might plug this in to Google Map's API and try to implement intelligent path-finding, or explore differentiation between transportation methods (such as drivers vs. walkers). For now though, I think it's a fun little diversion that lets us make some observations that we normally wouldn't be able to.
I look forward to utilizing the skills I’ve learned in future projects here at Odopod.
Odopod started at the end of 2000. It was the dawn of the “Digital Decade.” Over the past ten years, we’ve grown from a small digital studio to a fifty-plus strategically-minded digital agency. Meanwhile, the Internet has evolved from being something people use – to how people live.
People are boldly adopting new ways of using digital. We are empowered by our personal devices and social networks to try things that might have previously seemed too difficult, time-consuming or expensive. Cultural shifts are taking place at a massive scale to how we shop, communicate, read, consume media, play games, bank and work.
How and when did this happen?
The dot-com bubble had just burst. Still, there were high expectations and optimism for the Internet. The decadence and “get rich quick” schemes of the dot-com era gave way to innovation and “stuff that works.” With a glut of used furniture, office space and brilliant minds, it was a great time to start a new kind of company.
Odopod designer Dan Becker has done something many of us have wanted to do: publish a book. Go Dan! And not only that, he's published a book about design... and beer! What could be better?
Beer: A Genuine Collection of Cans is an incredible photographic journey of vintage beer cans. He covers some brief histories, shares interesting details on unique designs and brands and brings us some crazy flavors like "Pink Champale" (which is some malted champagne beer hybrid, FYI).
You may ask where one unearths such a collection of vintage goodness. And thanks to Dan's step-father Josh Russo, we have an answer. Dan explains, "I had been aware of my step-dad’s collection for years, but had only known it to be stored in cardboard boxes around the house. It wasn’t until he put the cans on display in the basement that I got a true sense of how extensive the collection really was."
His family basement! Amazing.
The book has also been really well received across foodie, design and culture blogs as seen on Cool Hunting, epicurious and NotCot. We're proud to see the personal work of one our designers get the attention it deserves.
Congrats to Dan! Now go buy his book.
Every Halloween, odosketch artists create some amazing, spooked-out sketches. This year, we've gathered up some of our favorite creatures and characters that make these fall festivities so much fun, created by the talented people of odosketch.