An experiment – this week I learned

Now that the days are actually starting earlier (after emerging from the slightly bleak Scottish winter), I’m finding myself taking the time out every morning to write in 750 words.

Having the space to write down and process all your thoughts is one of the best and most mindful things that I do. And recently, I’ve found that I’ve been writing about things that I’ve been learning about at work, or listening to podcast etc.

So starting from this week, I’m going to run a little experiment – to write a short blog post about something that I’ve learnt about that week. It could be about a specific technique, or an article I’ve read, or life hack.  Continue reading

Staying in Government – moving to Digital Public Services

This time last year, I mentioned that I was heading off to work in full time. It’s been the start of the biggest rollercoaster year, where the Ginsberg team has launch new SDKs and a new mobile app, and partnerships with other organisations including working with Open mHealth.

The project is now on hold at the moment, while we look at ways to think about its sustainability.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to stay in the Scottish Government. There’s a real opportunity now to transform the way that Government works through digital. The momentum created by the Government Digital Service (GDS) has meant that there’s a demand to look at how the Public Sector can be more citizen-facing.

Combine this with Scotland’s First Minister openly talking about how she wants Scotland to have an open and transparent Government, you can see why it’s an exciting opportunity to stay.

I’ve taken up post as Head of Product in the Digital Public Services and Business Transformation team headed by Colin Cook. The team’s two core outputs (amongst many), are and our in-house Publishing Platform. We’re also helping the Digital Communications team inside SG to create a revamp of, the official SG website.

My main focus at the moment is on our in-house Publishing Platform. The vision behind it is to create an open source, extensible Publishing Platform that Scottish Public Sector organisations can use. It’ll be designed with addressing the issues of publishing information across a large organisation in mind. And at the heart of it, trying to help the content designer’s job easier, faster and more manageable.

There’s already quite an appetite for what we’re doing. I hope we get there.

Moving On: From Interface3 to

After 5 successful years running Interface3 (and latterly, Tigerface Games), I’ve decided to close the doors. We’ll be winding things down by the end of the year.

Incidentally, before you ask – Interface3 as a business is doing fine. I’ve just decided to move on and do something else. Lots of people have asked why, and I thought it might be easier to explain through a blog post.

Burn Out and Re-evaluation

Everyone experiences burn out differently; for me, it felt like the final period of my PhD days again. The long hours, the guilt associated with taking any time off, the frustration that I wasn’t spending time doing the things that I loved doing. The worst thing about burn out is that it creeps up on you. It’s never just one thing; it’s the VAT return, and then the proposal, and then ‘this’ and ‘that’. Like quicksand, you don’t realise how deep you’re in until it’s too late.

By June 2014, I’d been thinking feeling low for a few months, and took my first holiday in 4.5 years to give myself the breathing space to re-evaluate.

When I came back, I got that dreaded phone call at 1am while in Manchester Airport that one of my close friends died in a car accident. It was all so sudden. She was gone within 24 hours.

When one of your peers passes away, it’s natural to re-evaluate your life. We all ruminated about what sort of impact that we wanted to make on the world before we left.

In the Startup Game, you have to know when to quit

September rolled round and it was clear that competition in the education apps market would get tougher. One of my most admired companies, WeeWorld, went into administration, and Moshi Monsters dropped 30 of their staff.

It just felt like the right time to change. The apps market was getting more competitive and as much as I loved Interface3 and Tigerface Games, it was time to take what I’ve learnt and find another opportunity to make a big impact.

Being Proud

I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved in the past few years at Tigerface Games. For a small self-funded startup in Edinburgh, we’ve tried hard to punch above our weight: we’ve won and been nominated for a number of international awards, sometimes alongside the big players like PBS KIDS. For instance, I recently found out that Sushi Scramble has been inducted into the Hall of International Mobile Gaming Awards. Our games will continue to be sold on the iOS and Android apps stores.

A startup is nothing without the team, and I couldn’t be more privileged to work with the most talented people I know. We’ve become good friends as well as great colleagues. The decision to wind down was particularly hard because I’m sad to break up our little well-gelled team.

What Next?

Since August 2013, I’ve been working a few days a week on, and I’ll be moving onto Ginsberg full time.

I’m super excited about what we can achieve at Ginsberg. Over the past 18 months, the team has gotten bigger, the vision has gotten even more ambitious and we’ve moved at a quickening pace. We went from nothing to Open Beta in 12 months. I’m delighted to find that mindfulness and mental wellbeing technologies are beginning to emerge as a market.

Running as a lean startup inside the Scottish Government gives us a unique position in the marketplace. As well as having the autonomy to make a brilliant mass-market product, we can run in a much more open manner. We’ll be open sourcing our SDKs, providing examples on issues like data privacy and being active in setting the formats for how mental wellbeing data is stored.

Our aim is to improve the mental wellbeing of the Scottish population (and hopefully on a global level too) through technology. That’s something that worth getting up for.

And after Ginsberg …?

After Ginsberg, the plan is to go travelling around the world for a while. If this year has taught me anything, is #YOLO.

Video games outside of financial gain?

Video games, like photography, music, cinema and literature, have tremendous value aside from any consideration of financial gain. If the incentive that we present to young people for making games is predominantly a financial one, then we are all the poorer. Video games allow people to express themselves and present the ways in which they experience and interact with the world and its systems in a unique way to others. Games are, predominantly, a way for self-expression and enrichment and yet the conversation is primarily focused on the “how” of making a living than the “what” of what might be possible within the medium’s bounds.


From – Why indie gaming’s obsession with moneymaking hurts us all


Learning to code? Passion projects meetup

I’m going to start this blog post with a confession.

About 2 years ago, I met with 2 wonderful teachers from the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh. They got in touch after hearing about the autism app that we were publishing, and we talked about technology and its role in education. 

At some point, our conversation drifted to a challenge they had – young kids were often apprehensive about going to hospital for the first time (I know I still do!) and they wanted someway of helping to ease these fears. We hit on the idea that we would make a storybook, about a child’s journey through the hospital, they would be introduced to the various people inside the hospital and that would help prepare the kids. The book would be illustrated and voiced by the kids from the hospital, and it would be a book for kids, by kids. 

They had no budget for the project, but the thought of endless rounds of funding applications was too daunting, especially for the simplicity of what we were after. So, I said that I would take it on as a personal project. It seemed perfect, since I wanted to brush up my programming skills. Two birds, one stone. 

Over the next year, we wrote the story, the pictures were illustrated, and I coded up most of it. We had a second round of meetings, got the voiceovers recorded and most of this was slotted in. 

Then the rest of life sort of set in. I had to finish the corrections on my PhD (to be fair, I had delayed it for quite some time). Then I gained quite a lot of weight over 2013, and started to train for a half marathon … 

2 years later, I’m still ashamed to say that I never got round to finishing the storybook. I know it’s there, and the guilt is killing me, but the guilt never quite outweighs the motivation required to do a weekend of coding when there’s lots of other stuff demanding my attention. 

Finding the time to code

At the same time, over the past few years, I’ve found that more of my friends (the majority being female) around my age (mid-20s-30s) have started learning coding skills. Some do it because they want to run tech startups and need to know how to assess technical talent; others want to learn so that they can communicate with the technical staff more effectively; and some want to learn simply because they see it as a new and interesting challenge to undertake. They come from all walks of life – from Digital Agencies, the Public Sector, to startups. A whole bunch of places. 

One line seems to be familiar over and over again: “Oh yeah, I signed up for code academy, did a few lessons, but I’ve not had the time to go back”.

Support / Motivational Meetup

Purely selfishly, I’d like to create a safe place for people like us to meet, make new friends, share their experiences and be part of stronger community. It’s a place for people who are learning to code in their spare time (i.e. not as a profession) to find others in the same position, get a bit of a hand, and find the social motivation to continue that project. No show-offs. And a place where both women and men would be equally as welcomed.

So what I’m going to propose is a 6 month check-in/meetup event. 

No invited/volunteered speakers. Everyone has to introduce themselves, talk about why they’re learning to code, what challenges they’ve ran into, where they are now and what they’re aiming for. 1-2 minutes max. No waffle. No monologues. People can talk about their progress so far, and whether they have a side project that they want to work on. Or it’s ok not to have a side project in mind either. I want to find out what other people are learning, what they are excited about and what their stumbling blocks are. 

If people want to, they can bring their laptops and work together on something after the introductions.

Remember! Newbies totally welcome. In fact, this is the place for you!

I don’t care if we only get 5 people, and they say which lesson on code academy they’re on. That’s totally awesome. The idea is to provide a place where we can all get a bit of help from each other, and give us the motivation to push forward to that next lesson before the next 6 monthly meetup. 

Sign me up!

I don’t have a venue for it yet, but I’m thinking we should run it on Thurs, 5th June, at 7pm. That’s plenty of notice for anyone that needs to make the right arrangements to be there.

I’m hoping this is the final push I need to finish my side project – who would like to join me?

Expectation setting …

I want to set a clear expectation that the objective of the group is to be supportive. If you’re going to come along and not play by that rule, I will politely ask you to leave. And that’s a promise. 


Why is it only every 6 months?  I don’t really want to run a regular meetup. That sort of defeats the point of finding time to finish the project. (I will add that if someone else does want to run a regular meetup, then please do. I’m not precious about this. Merely wanting to set the expectation that I can organise it twice a year only.)

Why don’t you just do this at a techmeetup? There are a ton of code/tech related meet ups in Edinburgh and Glasgow. But let’s admit it, I have a degree in Computer Science and even I feel like an imposter sometimes because I don’t code in my day job. I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have that background and attempt to talk about your side project in front of a bunch of people who do software development as a profession. I hasten to add that its not the fault of any of the organisers, because almost all of the tech/code meetup organisers are really nice and accommodating.

I code for a living, can I come and help? First of all, thanks! But I’m going to suggest that this is something that’s just for people doing this as a hobby. It’s a bit like turning up to your local 5-a-side football match with your mates and some professional footballers from Manchester United or Liverpool show up. No matter how nice they are to you, you still feel inadequate. 

Why so long before the meetup? Because I want to give plenty of notice so that people can book that time in their diaries. People are busy, I want to give people plenty of notice.  

Want to find out whether you’re going to have a good week? There’s an app for that!

Mystic Peg is an easy, simple way for anyone to see what their week is going to be like.

When you look at your diary, you might just see a list of events and appointments. But imagine if you could write down how you felt about each meeting or coffee with a colleague and then used that to work out what next week looks like for you depending on how you felt before.

Mystic Peg is an app that allows you to easily record how you feel about particular events like an anxious big team meeting or that dreaded driving test, and find ways to offset that to have a better day.

Each day in the calendar has a coloured background to show you what your mood is likely to be during that day. And for each appointment in your diary, you can mark it as good, bad, or OK. Over time, Mystic Peg will build up a picture of you to provide even better predictions of your mood over the week. People also have the option to add diary notes to their event.

What happens if Mystic Peg predicts that you’re going to have a bad day? She makes suggestions to make it better from the information you’ve entered already, like having coffee with your best friend or going to the cinema.

To get started with the app, users are asked to import their existing calendars from Google, Apple or Outlook. Their previous events are analysed and they are asked to do tell the app the meetings or events they have enjoyed.

By combining events and mood data, app developers at Project Ginsberg hopes that users can learn to manage the emotional and mental energy for the week.

“I use the Mystic Peg app to help me work out what my week looks like. I’m looking after my mum in hospital, as well as having to pick up the kids, so it makes it easy for me to arrange things so that I do the most draining things when I have the most energy.” Says George, 36.

“This is a great app! I love being more aware of how my day is going and know when to schedule any awkward phone calls so I can be at my best.”

For further information please contact Leah Lockhart on


This is a fake press release as part of Project Ginsberg. It’s part of the Working Backwards methodology from Amazon – see