This Is Nowhere: Finding My Duck
Oct 08, 2018 17:57

Friends of ours have a mostly indoor cat who is occasionally allowed out on a leash. A while back while out in the back garden, Beatrice discovered a mouse. All of her long housecat life of eating and sleeping and complaining, she had never seen a mouse - but it was instantly obvious to her that this is what she was made for. (She then became a real pain, constantly whining to be let outside to where her TRUE DESTINY was scurrying through the bushes).

One of my favourite podcasts is “Roderick On The Line” and on one of the early episodes he mentioned walking a friend’s dog in a park where the dog suddenly saw a duck for the first time ever, and since it was one of those duck-hunting breeds, the dog was shocked and excited to discover that it had been waiting for this moment all of its life.

The conversation continued with Merlin and John pondering in that mid-life kind of way that they hadn’t yet “Found Their Duck” - as in, they never found the thing that they felt would be the perfect fit for their psyches and expertise.

Well, I think I may have found my duck.

In late September of 2018, Nova Scotia’s Zuppa Theatre put on “This Is Nowhere” - a huge, ambitious production involving performances in a dozen secret locations across downtown Halifax. It featured over a hundred performers, including dancers and two whole choirs, as well as an art exhibit, video projections, and an interactive room-sized trivia board game.

The key to this whole experience was a mobile app which guided you to each location. It would provide clues to help you find your way, using GPS to let you know how far you still had to go. Once you got somewhere, it would switch to captions to provide extra instructions and context for the performance. This app was constantly checking in with a web-based tracking system which ensured even distribution of audience members among the locations, as well as special interfaces for site managers and performers to see who was on their way. Also, as they progressed through the experience, audience members could send their thoughts and reflections back from the app, where the accumulated "new blueprint" reappeared on projection screens and in the app during the finale of the show.

I built the app (well, more like apps since it went through several versions). I also built the server-side content management and audience tracking system. And, since it needed to be so integrated, I also built the audience registration system. And during each performance, I tracked everything and everybody and provided technical support. I was the one software person on this project, building a keystone element for the show, mostly on my own initiative. There haven’t been a lot of other projects like this in the world, so we were all making it up as we went along. Oh, and it was also my first ever project built in React Native. It was intense and nerve-wracking and I needed a full week to recover afterwards.

And I loved every moment of it. I had found my duck.

I’ve worked on many software projects over the years, but I also have two English degrees and was a drama club nerd back in High School and College. I’ve tried business software, graphic design, SAAS startups, teaching, and speaking - but this project really felt like a perfect mix of my experience and my skills and my lifelong interests.

Watch this space for more details about this project.