Manhole Covers

Click play to listen to an evolving soundtrack as you scroll through the post.


If you read this blog you might already know I like taking photos of tiles. This post is about another photographic hobby of mine – manhole covers.

Here’s one from Amsterdam which (to my eyes) evokes a computer keyboard. I did a quick google to find out what Purator is – and found a website devoted to manhole covers!


So far, the Czech Republic is winning – two manhole covers of note. I think this one is from the quad inside Prague Castle.


This one’s just a regular manhole from a random street in Prague, but it’s a damn cool design, especially against the backdrop of the concentric intersected rings of the pavement.


Actually it looks like the USA (or LA to be precise) is a close second, though the manhole covers aren’t nearly as interesting. This one’s a pretty great nod to futuristic 80s vector art.

That one looks more square than the others. I heard that “Why are manhole covers round?” is an interview question at Microsoft. I feel like this is the one question I wouldn’t have a problem with.

ShedbugThere’s Hope for You Yet

This one here is not really noteworthy, except for the clear pride that LA has that this manhole cover was made in India.

Wyatt MarshallThis & That

Nothing to say about this one from Canada, except that the sun was nice and low when I took the photo.

ShedbugThere’s Hope for You Yet

Computer & Nerd Boxes

First stop on our summer holiday was Sunnyvale. The first thing to do in silicon valley – the Computer History Museum. So much historical computer info and hardware all housed in Silicon Graphics’s old headquarters.

After the CHM we visited ex-colleague Aidan at his new workplace – one of the many Apple campuses dotted around. He’s in Wolfe, where marketing happens, and we also peeked at new, inpenetrable Apple Park. Impressive and inspiring places to work, nice food, and overly carbonated water on tap!


Memorable Moments from 2019 Automattic Grand Meetup

I’ve finally recovered from the Automattic Grand Meetup – took me a while this year, spent a few days in nomad-working in Cocoa Beach, and found myself sick for quite a few days. One reason it took so long to recover was because the meetup was totally amazing!

The keynote speakers this year were consistently fantastic. Each one made me look at the world slightly differently – very thought-provoking. Here are some memorable moments 🙂

Alexander Rose of the Long Now Foundation

I’d heard about the Long Now Foundation, but never really looked past the surface. At face value, it’s a compelling idea – how can we think and operate on timescales larger than our experience?

The work they are actually doing is delightfully idiosyncratic, and generally inspiring engineering (of the mechanical variety). I learned a lot about exactly what they mean by “long now clock”, and lots of fascinating details about what they are building.

Stephen Wolfram

Stephen Wolfram was an intense experience! He casually walked us through a bunch of big ideas, noodling in his interactive, natural-language based system for so-called “computational essays”.

His way of working really resonated with me – this seems like an important part of the next wave of computing. It really was like science fiction unfolding on stage. The Wolfram language allows you to jot down questions in a much more precise format. The system has types & semantics so that it really understands the places, concepts and numbers that you type, and it has “knowledge” – it’s connected to many vast data sources.

What I found compelling about this is its expressive and communicative power. When we use natural language, there’s always a “translation gap” – the symbols in the language are an approximation for what we mean. Can we develop a more precise way to communicate? Could such a system provide a common, standard set of tools for white papers or public policy development?

Scott Berkun

Scott Berkun presented a very a holistic view of design. He’s currently working on a new book – refreshing to have a talk not selling a book, but workshopping a book that’s in progress!

Everything is design, everything is designed, everyone is a designer. Often the nominal “designer” is working within constraints that they don’t control, and the “true” designer might be a producer, a mayor, a lobbyist, etc.

I really appreciated the “call to arms” in Scott’s talk. How can we ask questions and peel the layers back to understand what patterns and agents are really designing the experiences, cities, and products that we all use every day? Get involved here!


WordCamp Brisbane talk – Cool Stuff Inside Gutenberg

I spoke at WordCamp Brisbane last weekend – my first WordCamp! I chose Brisbane as it seems like the strongest community in my part of the world. It didn’t disappoint – the 2019 event broke records as the biggest #WCBNE ever!

For my talk topic, I wanted to shine a light on all the work going into the Gutenberg project. This code base powers the block editor in WordPress, but there’s so much potential here.

Inside Gutenberg there’s a rich library of components that you can use to build the custom block your site needs, dashboard interfaces in wp-admin, and more. You can even use these packages outside WordPress – the possibilities are endless!

Demo – Page Soundtrack

To demo this, I decided to invest some of my spare time in building something fun that I might use. The idea was to add a soundtrack to blog posts and pages.

When writing a post, you add loops to the page. When the user is reading (scrolling) through the page, it will automatically sync and crossfade between the loops, a bit like a DJ.

The two blocks – a loop block and a play button – use Gutenberg components to allow the author to configure things like loop settings, and the page tempo. Have a play with it!

Explore more


Building a Dining Booth

A little while ago we had some work done on our house to make it better.

We swapped the windowless, dank bathroom out to the large sun-filled laundry (with a vaulted/angled ceiling), extended the hallway to the back of the house, and added a toothbrush nook.

Next to our kitchen there was a nice chunk of space, with a view out to the back yard (and forthcoming deck). I was really keen on turning this into a dining booth – a bit like a cafe/diner booth, but a bit bigger.

So I borrowed a circular saw, started measuring, and built it!


Lisbon Tiles

Last year I went to Portugal for a meetup. What a fantastic place to visit – very walkable, lots of visual interest.

The paste-up cartoon street art people above are by Kamlaurene. I love their anonymous, ambivalent eyes 😶


Vogel Street Party

In 2014 the first Vogel Street Party happened in the warehouse precinct in Dunedin. The reason for the party was to celebrate the local community making things happen & the general rejuvenation of the area.

It was incredible! 

From 3pm to 10pm on Saturday the 18th of Oct 2014:

  • the street was closed to traffic
  • street food vendors sold delicious wares
  • a huge range of activities for young and old were held
  • a HUGE LED wall screen showed animation, video and digital art
  • musicians performed over the afternoon
  • there was an upcycled street-fashion show
  • DJs played into the evening

Also the party coincided with the Dunedin Street Art Festival. Local and international artists transformed walls around the area into vibrant pieces of art.

A strong group of volunteers made this happen. I got myself involved from day one and put a lot of energy into the website, booking the DJs, as well as curating & producing the digital screen content.

I also had the privilege of performing – DJing and triggering custom synchronised animations on the big screen.


A huge thanks to everyone who contributed to the event, and the sponsors who backed us!

This post was originally posted in 2014; since then there have been more Vogel Street Parties every year (with a hiatus in 2018), each one getting bigger and better! See you at the next one 🙂