Weekly Recap #10: “Blue Steel, Le Tigre or Magnum?”
Good morning everyone, this is Harry and you’re reading our 10th (!) weekly recap. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t quite believe myself that I’d still be writing these posts by now. And yet: here we are. All set? Ready, steady, go!
Why are we still doing this?
Let’s stay self-referential for a second … why are we even still writing these recaps? For once we’re getting a lot of positive feedback — that they’re fun, make us approachable and convey a sense of what it would be like to work with us. That’s great, I like that!
But then there’s also the fact that writing something is always a conscious process. Reflecting on the week, what mattered, what we learned and writing it down gives us as a company (and me personally) the opportunity to focus on the overarching, positive themes and developments instead of the irrelevant, annoying bits. It’s easy to fall into that trap of getting bogged down by all the little things that don’t work and losing sight of the bigger, positive picture; definitely happened to me in previous jobs.
What’s new? Glad you asked!
When we started the company in January we tackled mostly small, relatively simple projects … things that didn’t need a whole lot of planning and where the end result was well defined already in the beginning. Mainly small websites, e.g.: homepage + a blog + about us + necessary legal pages + contact us. Easy, done, next!
This was a logical first step because small projects are easier to acquire and relatively low risk, supplying a constant cashflow. However, having worked on very complex applications in previous employments, I was missing a bit of a challenge. That’s why I’m super happy that we managed to start a bigger, more daunting project this week … can’t talk about it yet, but we’ll try to share more soon. But it does have a real backlog, iterative setup and close collaboration with the clients. Feels good to have the opportunity to be doing things the right way again!
Book keeping software … meh.
Lars has been busy searching for and testing book keeping and invoicing software since our Google Sheet didn’t cut it anymore. Our requirements were pretty clear: 1) has to work for German companies (duh!), 2) connects to your bank accounts, 3) is easy to use, 4) features DATEV export and 5) supports recurring invoices. The only solution we could find that sorta works is Lexoffice. It’s far from perfect, but ticks most of the boxes, so we’re gonna take it for a spin. A very time-consuming spin that is … always scary how long testing new software, talking to their support and setting it up in a realistic scenario takes. Easily kept one of us busy the whole week. Maybe the Google Sheets weren’t so bad after all … we shall see.
Building a browser-based Memory game
Meanwhile we built a memory game for a client: I found it quite surprising how much depth there is in the interactions, even for the most simple game you can imagine. Before getting to work you think “memory, sure, easy, I know exactly how it needs to work” and then you build it and it feels wrong and you tweak it and it still feels odd and you tweak it some more and you watch other people play it and you realize that interaction design is never easy.
And then I also realized that I utterly suck at playing memory and that testing what happens when you finish the game is fairly annoying because I had to actually play through it dozens of times per day. Man. Our jobs are really hard. 😒
Artificial Intelligence: AlphaGo and TheGrid
Speaking of games: While I’m writing this text Google’s AlphaGo software beat Lee Sedol for the third time in a row in Go. This is significant because when it comes to Go (unlike Chess and most other board games) computers used to be unable to compete with human players. That changed today and a lot of text books will need to be rewritten. Jason Kottke put it quite well: We’re entering an era in which machines are no longer built from parts X and Y to execute task Z, but they can now surprise us, learn and act in creative, unpredictable ways.
That’s a note-worthy shift, however it’s necessary to remind ourselves that a computer mastering Go is a very narrow, specific use case and shouldn’t be overstated as the impending robot apocalypse. A good primer on the topic is the Wait But Why post about artificial intelligence — but you’ve all read that one already, haven’t you? So if you wanna dig deeper I can highly recommend Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence. It’s a long, complicated read (I could never manage more than 20 pages per session), but it’s worth it if you care about the topic.
Oh, and remember The Grid, promising to make us all obsolete and design websites with artificial intelligence? Yeah, looks like we’re gonna keep our jobs a little longer. Two sites built by their “intelligence” surfaced and they are very underwhelming to say the least. Even their evangelist confesses:
You are right…it sucks in it’s current state. It needs to be better.
Creative Morning with Michael Schmitz!
Friday meant getting up early again to catch up with the Creative Morning crowd. This one was special to us because the speaker was Michael Schmitz aka. SmarterGerman and he happened to be one of our first clients in January. He gave a very humble talk about the anxiety involved in the process of learning a new language, how not being able to communicate strips you of your identity and that mutual trust with a teacher can be an effective way to get out of that uncomfortable situation. A lively discussion followed, with several people expressing that you’ll never truly understand Berlin if you don’t speak German.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to catch up with Michael afterwards, but hopefully we’ll get the chance soon! 👋
You can find more (and higher quality) impressions in Norman Posselt’s photo set and the video will presumably be posted soon. I still find it amazing that such a high-quality, well organized event happens free of charge every month … so kudos to everyone involved! If you haven’t been to Creative Mornings before, consider stopping by next time!
ENGAGE WITH US ON SNAPCHAT! 👻
As you might have noticed, we’re trying to do this social media thing properly and dedicate quite some time to it. This week we added Snapchat to the mix, vlogging some things that happened in the office. Obviously it’s quickly vanishing from our story and not much will be added over the weekend, but do friend us and get ready for some snapping next week!
As always, we’re eager to hear your feedback, whether you liked what you saw or read. We’re really just throwing stuff out there, seeing what might stick. 🙃
And that’s it for today! We’re already super excited for next week when we’ll be four people with Max finally joining the crew on-site and full-time!
Until then: Thank you for reading, have a relaxing weekend and we shall be back! 🤖🤓