people.46elks.com/royden/

One and a half months in.

So it has been one and a half months since I donned my antlers and joined the 46elks heard, and I must say it’s turned out to be more fun than expected. Don't get me wrong, I didn’t expect it to be boring, but one does expect a certain amount of “underwhelm” when dealing with a legacy technology and a relatively simple product. I am pleased to say that I have been proven wrong. Everyday we seem to find some crazy new ways to use SMS and voice to create some pretty cool things.

Like for instance, right now I am in the process of building an app for my autistic son. The app is based off of a tried and tested communication aid called PECS (picture exchange communications system) which was developed in 1985 and is exceptionally good at helping non-verbal autistic kids find their voice. This app will allow my 3 year old son, who does not say a word yet, to communicate with his mom and I, by constructing a sentence with pre-saved images that he recognises and associates with.

He is already using the system in the form of physical images mounted to cardboard cards that are laminated with a strip of velcro on the back. This works extremely well, although for my son, it has been difficult for us to motivate that he takes this book everywhere he goes, as it is important for him to use the PECS system every time he wants to communicate. As most parents of autistic kids, or even neuro-typical kids will know, iPads and iPhones are practically considered as an extra appendage these days. So my aim is to build a digital format of this system and give my son the motivation he needs to take his language system everywhere he goes.

Where the 46elks API comes in, is I want to be able to translate his “picture sentences” into a text message within the app where he can then send it to either Emelie (Alec’s mom) or myself. Most of the imagery used in these pictures is based off of unicode’s emoticons, so once his sentence has been created, he can easily send it via a text message and it will show up just as he had constructed it. Pretty amazing stuff if you have never been able to talk to your son before and now through some technical innovation, we can, and we can do it from anywhere.

My tool box consists of the 46elks API , Ionic as the framework to build the application and Parse.com as the backend. I will then create a native IOS or Android app which will allow syncing of his word cards and statistics across multiple mobile phones and tablets, so that there will always be a device he can communicate on within arms reach. This will also allow us to look at which words he uses the most, and how many new words he has added over time. The plan is to also make this app available to everyone who might be in the same situation as we are.

Biggest question now is, will he even use it :) Stay tuned.

Written 2015-09-18 by Royden James

Day one

So today is the day I decide to strap on some antlers and join the guys from 46elks. Sitting here in front of my brand new company issued MacBook, sporting the company logo on my chest, Im excited to see what the future holds for both me and 46elks.

These guys seem down to earth, smart and ready to take on the world even if it is one country at a time, keeping things simple but doing things right. A philosophy I strive for on a daily basis.

Every process I have been a part of so far has been refreshingly different and filled with a personality I think many people, especially developers, will find easy to get behind. Just as an example - my application for the position of ‘Growth Hacker’ started with just a text message, instead of the usual mind numbing ‘PICK ME, PICK ME!’ resumé shenanigans. I really appreciate that and I am hoping that going forward this unorthodox approach will be at the core of everything we do, because let’s face it, no-one ever changed the status-quo by doing the same shit as the guy next door.

So to document this journey, I decided to write a short blog series about my process of discovering just what 46elks is all about and just how close first impressions are to what’s really going on.

But before we get to that, a little about me.

I see myself as an eternal optimist with a propensity for leveraging technology, drinking fine whisky and building meaningful relationships. Hailing from the farmlands of South Africa’s majestic Lowveld, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and Im always up for a challenge.

As a trained industrial designer and self taught communicator, I’m fascinated by the extraordinary possibilities that can be born from a combination of the ordinary. After 14 years in the industry, it turns out that my talent lies in the ability to understand people and the importance of good clear communication especially when it comes to presenting a new product or idea.

Over the years I have worked with companies on a global stage ranging from Coca-cola, Apple and Sony, all the way to local startups like Goo Technologies and Nerve Labs. This smorgasbord of experience has really helped me hone my skills and to understand the subtleties and nuances that exist in people even within the same culture or geographic location and the importance it plays in how they live their daily lives, even down to their choice of tooth paste. The journey of discovery is the most fun for me as it can sometimes yield some truly bazar and wonderful things, so I am definitely looking forward to the next few weeks here.

So what is my first impression?

From my limited research and exposure so far, it seems that 46elks have a solid, well constructed product that people find easy and effective to use. The strategy and vision of the company seems responsible but at the same time ambitious.

The brand has a playful touch to it which I believe will develop and grow over time and I can definitely see 46elks as a company people will be wanting to work for. I believe there is still a lot of work to do and a lot of fun to be had, but what has gotten 46elks to a good start is a great base product. No need to invent legs to fit the pants in this case.

So all that being said, time to get started and see where this journey takes us.

Written 2015-08-05 by Royden James