Apps Computer Science Entrepreneurship

TalkTalk Digital Heroes – I won!

I’m delighted to say that I’ve won the TalkTalk Digital Heroes Next Generation award! After having been nominated early in the year and a month long period of public voting, I was invited to the House of Lords yesterday for the awards ceremony. The ceremony was wonderful, and it was fantastic to meet the winners from other categories in such a special location – the view of The Thames was very special!

Picking up the award at the House of Lords. With: Peter Willis, myself, Rachel Neaman, Jessica Lennard (left-right)
Picking up the award at the House of Lords. With: Peter Willis, myself, Rachel Neaman, Jessica Lennard (left-right)

Below is a video of me that TalkTalk produced for all the category winners.


TalkTalk Digital Heroes – My Nomination

This is a re-post from the pingWHEN blog, kept during our participation in Techstars London 2015.

Sam TalkTalk is currently running their annual Digital Heroes awards, and one of our co-founders, Sam Heather, has been nominated.

The awards seek to recognise technologists who have not only harnessed the power of technology, but are using it to help others, whether in their community or through the environment. Sam has been nominated for the Next Generation award, which seeks to recognise young people who have used technology to for social good through a variety of projects.

Sam’s nomination comes as a result of his work over the last six years to use technology for social good. He’s currently working on pingWHEN, a personal safety app motivated by the statistic that 1 in 4 women on college campus in the United States will be sexually assaulted during her years there. pingWHEN is going through the prestigious mentor-led TechStars accelerator programme in London, having received $120k investment from them.

Sam’s previous projects include working on Shy with Julie Markham, a service aiming to provide crucial knowledge about personal and sexual health to those either to shy to ask their family / friends (possibly because of cultural taboos), a common trait of those born since ~2000, or those living in developing countries without access to the raw information. Shy is both a mobile app and an SMS service, to fulfil both of these use cases. Sam also built the first Anonymous Web Browser on the iOS platform called Branon, with the intention of providing free and unrestricted access to information to those living in countries with restricted internet access.

You can vote for Sam in the TalkTalk awards here or by visiting Voting takes just a minute.

Apps Computer Science

Total Tables and Turtle Tables – Rectifying Shabby Mental Arithmetic Worldwide via a User Centred Design Approach

totalTablesAppIcon1024-1024            turtleTablesAppIcon1024-1024

Today marks the end of excuses for shabby mental arithmetic Worldwide. No more excuses (if you have an iOS device) not to know of the top of your head what 12×9 is. Today, Alastair Cooke and I are launching twin Apps Total Tables and Turtle Tables (use these links to Download, or search the names in the App Store), a pair of Mental Arithmetic games, much acclaimed by Maths Academics:

As an academic myself, I constantly see students entering all ranges of degree with very poor Mental Arithmetic Skills. Total Tables is a very encouraging step forward in terms of making it faster, easier and more entertaining for both students and non-academic folk to get up to scratch on both their Twelve Times Tables and their technique for non-trivial Multiplication. Great app all round – I prefer the Turtle version myself! – Ashley, Maths Academic


Sitting on the train back to University at the beginning of January, I decided to spend the time getting my brain back into gear for more complex mathematics, so I went on the App Store in search of some mental arithmetic puzzles. Alas, the quality of what was there was abysmal! Some games asked the same questions over and over again, whilst others thought the easy-to-use, beautiful, familiar keyboard built into iOS wasn’t good enough for their App and so came up with their own version with smaller touch targets and in one case reverse ordering of the buttons. That evening, I gave Alastair a call and we discussed the possibility of creating a simple, easy to use, and most importantly, fun, app for people to practise their mental arithmetic on (initially, their times tables).

Total Tables and Turtle Tables

Total Tables does just this. With a Standard Mode, featuring games of 10 randomly generated questions up to 12×12, players can race anyone around the world for the crown of ‘Fastest Time Table Guru’, and with the Difficult Mode, players can practise their mental long multiplication technique with 10 questions that get progressively harder up until 100×100. Total Tables is designed to be highly educational, great for the brain, fantastic fun to play and extremely competitive.

Turtle Tables is our version for Kids. Want your Son or Daughter to get ahead with their times tables at School, or want to teach them long multiplication in advance? Download Turtle Tables, and they can have the same experience as with Total, with the addition of some wonderful, playful, animated sea creatures.

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Design and Future

Determining what Total Tables should be was incredibly difficult.  How many levels of difficulty should we have? How should we support both children and adults? How could we encourage competitiveness, whilst focussing laser-like on the goal of education? Steve Jobs said that “Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things”. We may only have said no to a few hundred things, but to say no to just one more thing would have been to change the essence and ideal of Total Tables. We truly believe that there is not a single detail in Total Tables that doesn’t need to be there, not a single detail that draws your attention away from the content, and that every detail we included enhances the sense of connection between the user and the questions.

After months of evenings work and a lot of going back to notes I took during my Human Computer Interaction course, we think Total Tables encompasses everything necessary and no more, for a great experience whilst learning and practising your times tables. We hope you enjoy using it, and we look forward to creating future versions testing other types of mental arithmetic based on our current design.

Both Total Tables and Turtle Tables can be downloaded from the App Store by either searching their names or by using these links: Total Tables and Turtle Tables.

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A complete set of marketing images can be downloaded here. For communications, please contact [email protected]

Apps WWDC York University CS Student Blogs

Coming Home from WWDC – My Thoughts

WWDC 2013
WWDC 2013

So, WWDC is now over, but it’s content and everything it set in motion is only just getting started.  So, what are my final thoughts?  Would I go again?

Over the last couple of days since the conference I’ve realised that attending the conference is only the start of the list of WWDC and it lives on for a fair few months after.  I’ve been working on a few projects literally to experiment with parts of Objective-C that are new to me, and I’ve started a pair of projects which I have no idea how I will complete (inspiration for them: Moonshot Thinking Video by Google) – one focussed around converting a video stream to a graphical form (lots of core algebra is involved here – I’m really learning it’s easier to keep doing some active Maths now and then instead of just forgetting it since it took a little while to get back up to speed).

A big part of WWDC is the technical stuff that happens both outside and after the event.  For example, in the Keynote, there was brief talk of a new feature in iOS 7 for Enterprise – Per-App VPN – meaning you can connect to a VPN if and only if the user is using your app.  Apart from this and one other brief mention in another presentation, there was no information on it.  Since this is an area that could be really useful to my apps, I have been chasing information on the feature, and the developer community has been incredibly helpful through WWDC channels.  From the Apple Developer Forums through to comments on the videos of the sessions (they record all of the sessions for us to watch after WWDC) the (very) few of us that are interested in this have naturally grouped together to pool resources through the Apple communities, which would never have happened otherwise.  In other words, WWDC is somewhere where you chose to network with interesting and like-minded people who you are likely to stay in contact with.

So, would I go again?  Definitely.  From having access to the latest information regarding iOS and OS X to been able to get questions answered immediately by the people who actually wrote the software – it’s an invaluable experience.  And as I say it opens a lot of doors in terms of information after the event and new acquaintances.