The engineering consultancy behind the Maple Board and Google's Project Ara needed to update its online presence.


I rent a studio space in a shared co-working space called Industry Lab in Cambridge, MA where I have met some very talented, creative, and ambitious people. One such group is an engineering consultancy called LeafLabs, one of the companies behind Project Ara, Google's modular phone project. As their business grows, they came to me for a new online presence. 


Here's a juicy story. The most recent Motorola Moto Z phone with the swappable backs, surreptitiously incorporated a lot of the code from Project Ara.  Perry Hung from LeafLabs told me that one can search the codebase and see their work. I asked if he was flattered he said, "yeah, kinda" with a smile.  It's not illegal, almost funny – the project was originally open source when Google and Motorola were still partners, just no one saw Motorola beating Google to the modular game.


Don't Overhype Science


My father is a molecular biologist, and when I was young I would help him design his presentation boards and figures. Unlike the advertising industry, I learned that there are no exaggerations to be made, or else one risks raising eyebrows and losing trust. And when I say science, I include engineering or any of the hard disciplines where facts are verifiable and claims have to be made very carefully. 

Memories of this came back to me during this process, particularly for the Willow page of their website. Willow is their neuroscience division, and in partnership with Ed Boydon's lab at MIT, they have developed what may be the world's highest channel count probes. Where LeafLabs really shines is they have also developed the hardware necessary to capture that data and the software to analyze it. 

On that page we initially wrote, "The human brain has 100 billion neurons. The mouse brain has 100 million. Until now, scientists have only been able to observe a dozen."

This felt a little risky to some members of their team because maybe there are some studies where more than a dozen have been observed, also maybe this sentence made a soft claim to be able to observe somewhere in the other number range. So we changed it to "The brain is tremendously complex, and uncovering its secrets will require huge amounts of high-resolution data." No trouble there.