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GNU Terry Pratchett

(post-hoc prescript: I admit to being in two minds about sharing this post. Name-dropping can be the ultimate in reflected vanity: I have worth because I knew this worthy person. I title it about them, but we both know it’s about me. I hope this post, containing much as it does about me and my experiences, is actually about what I learned from an Old Fart in a Hat – among others.)

GNU Terry Pratchett

Nearly three years ago, The Compleat Ankh-Morpork was approaching completion, and the publishers were excited about the potential to turn it into an interactive discovery of the Circle Sea’s cleanest cityest city. At the time that I joined Agant, Dave “OMG it’s Dave Addey off the internets” Addey had already been discussing the project with them, and much was ready to go.

Indeed, Dave and I were ready to go. We took a train down to the Discworld Emporium and met Sir Terry Pratchett, his partner in crime Rob Wilkins, their able Aiders and Abettors from the Emporium and some of the most happening among those who Make Things Happen at the publishers.

In the Dolphin Hotel at Wincanton, we had a pub lunch and tried to define exactly what it meant to put Ankh-Morpork into an iPad. I’d already made a start, and here I learned Lesson Two: the creative mind knows it can be done. You don’t need to convince them it can be done. It’s already been done, it’s up there in their mind’s eye. You just need to convince them it can be done well, and in this reality.

Wait, lesson two? Yes, for here was Lesson One: when meeting your heroes, only one of the two of you is likely to try and make a big deal out of it. The other wants their ploughman’s lunch and their G&T and to get back to work. Keeping focussed on the task at hand – a difficult feat as I was dealing with an internal monologue that would not stop going “squeeeeeee” – paid off, and everyone left safe in the knowledge that there was lots to do but that we would do it because it needed to be done and we needed to be the ones to do it and we needed it to be done well.

OK, most of the rest of this story is history. Dave, the developers at Agant, and a dedicated collection of others worked very hard for a number of months and eventually Discworld: the Ankh-Morpork Map for iPad oozed its way out of the alledged waters of the Ankh (there’s no need to disinfect it, the bacteria refuse to touch the stuff) and into the App Store. It remains the project of which I am most proud, both of the contributions I made and of all that was put in by everyone involved.

All good stories, though, come to an end, and Sir Pterry’s did last week. Today I went back over to the Emporium to talk a bit about the past and a lot about the future. It’s from today’s discussions that Lesson Three originates.

Some day, you will be invited by a polite though insistent anthropomorphic personification to take a walk together. Before he arrives, do the things that need to be done. Make sure they’re the things that must be done by you, and that you will be satisfied and pleased to see completed. Otherwise the two of you won’t have a whole lot to talk about.

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