I'm on a train! A train, heading towards Christchurch, with an amusingly bad synthesized (at least, I hope it's synthesized) announcement of train stops.
Being on a train would not normally be worthy of a diary entry. However, I'm travelling not as part of my heretofore stable academic enquiries, but as a mostly-fledged member of the high-flying technological startup community. No, I haven't quite sold out; as of yesterday, I work four days a week for a bright-futured company in the general area of mobile and wireless broadband; the other working day will continue to be spent at Goldsmiths, where I retain most of my responsibilities (but not the management of the music-informatics OMRAS2 project, which finished at the end of August); this arrangement with Goldsmiths will continue for a year.
So, why? A number of factors came together to make this a very attractive opportunity. Firstly, as I've already mentioned, the research project whose technical side I was responsible for came to an end last month; although the project itself was interesting, and its existence was at least partly responsible for me having a permanent academic position, I think it's fair to say that there were all sorts of wetware headaches as a result. The end of the project was therefore a natural point to start afresh — and in particular, to try to focus on aspects of work that I enjoy. Secondly, my PhD students are largely getting towards the end of their studies; most should be submitting their dissertations in the next few months. While PhD students are usually an asset to an academic, it is true that they can take up significant amounts of time, particularly in the early stages; not having to guide any in the early stages of their research next year gives me the freedom to investigate other activities, and to try to broaden my experience. Thirdly, when the person who comes calling is as awesome as our CTO, and when the rest of the gang is full of names I recognize, well, I expect to learn a lot. (I already have!)
And of course, the fact that some of the underlying technology used in the company uses is software that I'm fairly familiar with is attractive; it would be good to show the world that there are more SBCL-using companies with a healthy business than just the poster child. If I'm lucky, the Free Software and Lisp-related content on this blog should noticeably increase, because although the academic life gives a huge freedom to think, it doesn't actually give a large amount of time to do very much with those thoughts; in this newly-acquired business role, as well as the inevitable all- hands pitching in until the small hours to make the demos work with bits of string and glue, I hope that there will be time to implement and reflect on interesting things.