Generation JPod

Sat 03 June 2017 by Jim Purbrick

I’ve just got back from Kaş where I spent a lovely few days celebrating Pinar and Simon’s wedding and while there spent a few hours reading Now We Are 40: a thoughtful and entertaining look at everything from house music to house prices from the perspective of Generation X.

While a lot of the book was familiar, I was surprised how different my experience has been. I don’t feel part of the last generation who grew up without digital technology, but part of the first generation to grow up with it.

I learned to program at school, started writing code professionally at 18 and haven’t stopped. I didn’t work many McJobs, but have worked in many JPods (and seen friends move to Vancouver to work in the games industry there). I may have bought my first smartphone when I got my first job, but my life has felt digital from the start.

One focus of “Now We Are 40” is the changes in music over the last few decades from the pre-digital rave scene to the current over-saturation of recorded music available from streaming services which has rendered selling recorded music unsustainable for almost everyone. Food and drink followed on as the next big thing, something I’ve experienced personally as my brother-in-law morphed from hip hop pimp to sommelier. You may not need to buy recorded music any more, but you still need to eat and drink.

In fact raves, clubs, cafes and restaurants are mostly a place to hang out. When people were incredulous at the idea of spending real money on virtual goods Cory and I used to point out that most of what you were buying in Starbucks was not coffee or service, but an experience just as ephemeral as a virtual hat.

Virtual worlds like Second Life and now Social VR showed that you could digitise the hanging out too. It’s already proving to be an invaluable lifeline to people who find it hard to hang out in real life. While festivals, clubs and gigs are where musicians are increasingly making money in real life, they also work in virtual worlds. I first saw the Qemists, now one of my favourite bands, on the Ninja Tune stage at a festival in Second Life organised by Aleks. Later, Leon poked me on Facebook to ask me to advise his new tech startup because, after music and food, technology is apparently the new rock and roll.

For most of my career I have been building experiences which compliment the real world and working at Facebook is the first time that I have felt like I might be working somewhere that has been disrupting existing industries. The view that Facebook is an existential threat to the open web (a prospect that Bryan likens to the bug sucking the wildebeest dry) is relatively widespread and I remember a circle forming around me when I told Aral and some of the other web developers at a Skiff Christmas party that I was going to work there.

In fact I’ve spent much of the last few years working on open source tools that will benefit the wider web while also being able to support my family more sustainably than I could working in a games industry where redundancies and closures were more common than Philip Rosedale being asked how much he would sell Second Life for at Davos.

While the software industry seems to be constantly changing with new tools, languages, platforms and frameworks arriving all the time, a deeper disruption is potentially coming to the business of writing code for a living. Increasingly large parts of software systems are learned by machines rather than programed by humans. As Jeff Dean at Google observed: “If Google were created from scratch today, much of it would be learned, not coded.” When I started studying Computer Science in Nottingham my dad advised me not to become just a computer caretaker. It’s very possible that I may end up becoming a computer trainer instead.

If my experience has felt so radically different despite being only a few years younger than Tiffanie Darke - if I feel more Generation JPod than Generation X - are we already at the point where technological change is rendering the use of 15-20 year long generations obsolete?

The difference may also just be because “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”. If you were connecting early modems to BBSes at the start of the 90s it was easy to become a digital native. If you were busy dancing to Charly in a warehouse you may have had to catch up later.

One thing that is clear is that we need to work out how our increasingly disrupted and automated society will function. If software is eating the world and software is increasingly learned, then we’re going to have to find a way for people to flourish in that future. Brexit and Trump show what happens when people are worried about their place in the world. I’d like to see my children grow up in a future which is closer to the The Culture than Mad Max. There’s a general election in the UK next week. My next plan is to vote for a more progressive future.

2² Decades

Thu 20 April 2017 by Jim Purbrick

Several years ago when we were in 100 robots together, Max was celebrating his 40th birthday. When I said that mine would be in 2017, it felt like an impossibly far future date, but, after what feels like the blink of an eye, here we are.

Along with many other ...

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Sun 21 August 2016 by Jim Purbrick

At the 3rd Party Dev State of the Union at EVE Fanfest 2016 earlier this year, CCP FoxFour drew my attention to a limitation of the current approach used by crestmatic to generate CREST documentation: it only discovers resources always reachable from the API root from the perspective of the ...

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Sun 03 January 2016 by Jim Purbrick

A year ago I gave a talk at EVE Vegas about building RESTful CREST applications. My #1 recommendation was to specify representations in requests, but that’s hard to do when there is little documentation on which representations are available and what they contain.

Fortunately CREST is self describing: send ...

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Organisational Structures

Thu 20 March 2014 by Jim Purbrick

There have been a number of blog posts recently about exciting new organisational structures. As Cory points out “Every early stage company thinks it has reinvented management”: a very dangerous belief when betting on a new organisational structure can be much riskier than betting on the wrong product.

It starts ...

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Beyond Time Dilation?

Wed 29 January 2014 by Jim Purbrick

The Battle of B-R5RB

EVE online is a remarkable game. On Monday over 2000 people spent over 20 hours destroying virtual spaceships worth 200,000 USD in real money in what was the likely the largest battle in a video game ever. That EVE is capaple of supporting such large engagements is an amazing ...

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Parse By The Sea

Sat 19 October 2013 by Jim Purbrick


A few weeks ago Facebook London hosted the Parse By The Sea hackathon at the Brighton Dome as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. The idea was to take one of our internal hackathons on the road and invite members of the public to join us, turning a hackathon in ...

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Facebook Hackathons

Mon 16 September 2013 by Jim Purbrick

I’ve been a big fan of hackathons since one of the first Yahoo! Hack Days I attended at Alexandra Palace was struck by lightning. The lightning caused the fire alarms to go off which opened the roof to let the torrential rain pour on to hundreds of geeks and ...

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Brighton Digital Festival

Wed 04 September 2013 by Jim Purbrick

The Brighton Digital Festival starts this week and I’m very happy to be helping out with Facebook London‘s contributions: Parse By The Sea, a mobile app Hackathon featuring Parse on the 26th of September, and helping to Connect The Brighton Digital Festival by sponsoring Metranet to provide high ...

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Google+ First Thoughts

Thu 30 June 2011 by Jim Purbrick

After months of rumours it’s finally here, so what is Google+ like? My first thoughts are that it’s super slick and that Circles definitely makes it different, but I’m not sure better.

Limiting the distribution of shared information will likely also limit the growth of the network ...

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HTML 5 multimedia

Mon 07 June 2010 by Jim Purbrick

I’ve been morbidly fascinated by the Rich Internet Application technology blood bath for a while now: Whirled,Metaplace and others tried to stuff virtual worlds in to web pages using Flash, Second Life stuffed Flash in to virtual worlds via Webkit, Unity stuffed Mono in to a 3D engine ...

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FOSDEM X: The Movie

Sun 14 March 2010 by Jim Purbrick

A video of my FOSDEM talk about Mono in Second Life and our plans for the future of scripting is now online (the slides are also available here ):

Watching back, I was surprised to hear myself say “Hooray!”, “Shit” and “Crap” quite so often…

While you’re catching up on ...

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Mon 07 December 2009 by Jim Purbrick

On Friday I jumped on the train to London to attend the first scalecampuk, an unconference about scalability, at the Guardian offices.

The sessions were all very interesting and mostly very relevant. I learned new things about XSS and CSRF and Django’s defences against them from Simon Willison, new ...

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