Chris GarrettChris Garrett


33/M/UK

I'm Chris Garrett, a founder and creative technologist working at the intersection of design and engineering.

I’m very excited to share the public availability of PlanAtom. This is a product that I originally spiked as an internal sales tool within XI, but has since grown into a full blown commercial service.

The premise is quite simple: aggregate planning applications and identify the ones which fit with our service, then reach out to the applicants with a view to being the first builder they engage with. There’s a huge range of use cases for this across the construction ecosystem - from commercial lenders, to materials suppliers, to service providers like building regs.

Tech wise, the data aggregation is wrapped up in a Rails app. It uses GPT to parse very “soapy” planning application descriptions into structured data which can then be filtered and queried. The frontend, as ever, is built with Astro and leans heavily on Tailwind UI. I’m still actively developing the customer control panel, using Turso and Lucia.

Very excited to be shipping this - it’s the first flag in the ground for Project XI as a tech enabled business, and showcases the extent of what we’re working on.


I haven’t done this for a while, but this week has had a few interesting occurrences (by my standards).

  • With the Space Baby out in the wild, it was nice to get some attention from the Astro and Turso communities.
  • I was privileged to spend some time in conversation with Glauber on the back of that – he’s an impressive guy and super committed to making Turso the best platform possible. Really excited about Turso’s future!
  • Discord is where the best announcements happen now.
  • I gave Hyperlaunch a much needed rebrand, to match the realignment in offering and to tie in with some announcements.
  • I made two pre-sales on my first SaaS spin-out from Project XI… We’ve been aggregating planning applications for a while now. We use them to target outreach for lead generation. I decided to put out a demo site based on the data, and ended up with two pre-sales on the back of it. One’s to a bank that has previously financed property acquisitions for us; the other is an organisation that I’ve previously consulted for. Goes to show that relationships really do compound.

I’ve been doing a lot of building over the past month, and I’m really enjoying the feedback loop as it kicks in while I start to bring more of it online.


It’s been a while since I shipped a client project with Hyperlaunch, so I’m super excited to release the new Space Baby app for U2. I’m even more excited to be able to say that I’m the first developer in the world to develop an app integration with The Sphere.

3D visualisation of the Space Baby on the Sphere

What is it?

It’s a companion app for U2’s residence at the Sphere. Whenever U2 content is playing on the “exosphere”, the app goes into “broadcast mode”, allowing fans to tune in and listen to the audio accompaniment. This includes the Space Baby speaking, so I had a fair bit of technical wrangling to make sure it’s millisecond accurate - essentially pre-downloading the entire clip and then seeking to the right point, to avoid latency issues with streaming.

Outside of broadcasts, there’s an ambient soundtrack produced by Brian Eno.

When a broadcast starts, we recieve a notification from the Sphere’s internal tooling to update the currently playing clip - and my stack then pushes a socket to all active users to update the state in real time.

Built with…


It’s been a while since I indulged in a pure piece of R&D, and the list of tools I’ve been keen to play with has grown pretty lengthy. I finally managed to carve out a week to get down to some serious experimentation and the result is Decimal, a free Binaural Beats generator delivered as a PWA.

Screenshot of invoice in Decimal.fm

I’ve been using Binaural Beats ever since I heard about them in the Huberman Lab episode on concentration, Focus Toolkit: Tools to Improve Your Focus & Concentration. I’ll add that I’ve also found them incredibly effective as a sleep aid.

While the concept works for me, the existing apps are generally pretty poor; ad-laden and lacking in terms of UX. With Decimal, I wanted to deliver an app that users can love, without the ad and tracking bloat that comes with so many apps. My main goals were:

  • Exceptional speed and performance
  • Joyful to use - nicer than any existing apps
  • No invasive ads or tracking

I hope I’ve achieved all three. The end result is what I’ve started to refer to as a toy; it’s fun to use, singular in purpose and has no intention of delivering any commercial outcomes. A true “small web” project.

Tech wise, the app is built with Astro, with some React islands peppered throughout - for interactive components like the player controls. I dropped in Million.js because… well why not?

The biggest epiphany for me was using Nanostores to share state between disparate React components - like the main player and persisted mini player in the header. Nanostores make this super easy, and the resulting code is far clearer than the eqivalent would be with a Provider/Context hook. I’ll definitely be using this approach in future.

The tones themselves are generated with the Web Audio API, so you can switch from the suggested presets to entirely custom frequencies. As part of my three goals above - I was eager to get lock screen controls functional on mobile. The Media Session API, however, doesn’t have any awareness of Web Audio instances, so I resorted to a hack: playing a looping mp3 of silence, and then binding to the Media Session callbacks for that <audio /> to control the Web Audio output.

All of this is made feasible with Astro’s <ViewTransitions />. I can just append transition:persist to any component to have it persist in the client between page navigations - so there’s no loss of audio playback etc as you navigate around. You get some fantastic transitions too - with no implementation overhead.

Astro is increasingly looking like a framework/build tool I can go all in on; the life cycle is super intuitive and ability to drop in piecemeal UI framework components is incredible. The default 💯 page speed scores are pretty compelling, and because the app compiles to static and generates the audio entirely in the client, it costs next to nothing to run.

Tech aside, I’ve also done some experimentation with using GPT 4 and DALLE-3 to generate blog posts that I hope will deliver some educational and actionable information for new comers to binaural beats. I really struggle to pen that sort of content myself, so this was a novel way to overcome a writer’s block; hopefully some craftmanship at the the prompt level pays off in the output. These posts will be rolling out on the blog over the next couple of months.



I’ve been involved in a construction SME for a couple of years now, and I’ve been consistently shocked by the administrative burden that HMRC impose on general contractors like us. Regulation like reverse VAT and CIS ultimately shift liability for our subcontractors taxation onto us, while the industry remains woefully under-educated in the consequences of not complying.

To save hours of paperwork a week, I developed a small app for managing our subcontractor “Accounts Payable”. It collects all the necessary information about the subbies trading style, makes it effortless for them to submit invoices in a standardised format, calculates CIS deductions and reversed VAT, and gives a real-time view of our liabilities.

Screenshot of invoice in Hammertime

We’re getting requests from every subcontractor to make the tool available to them for use in their own business, so from September I’m going to be focussing on spinning this out as a commercial SaaS and growing it from there. It feels like we’re very close to Produt-Market-Fit already… “Build something people want”.


I’ve been caught up in a lot of chat about async vs sync for development teams lately. I’m clearly not the only one.

I skew heavily towards eradicating scheduled/recurring calls, but I’ve noticed a tendency to interpret that as being “anti-conversation”. This really isn’t the case - face-to-face, or voice-to-voice, conversation is by far the fastest way to traverse an intellectual space. Notion docs, slack threads, etc all create friction to reaching a conclusion.

Scheduled calls and meetings, to me, represent dogma. But for complex topics, purposeful, ad hoc conversations with a defined goal can’t be beaten.

People talk about stand-ups and and other rituals as a means of socialising and bonding - but I, personally, bond far better over a pairing session than a “what I did / what I’m doing” round-robin.


  • Bobby told me about Good Job yesterday, a really nice, low dependency worker implementation for Rails. Will be using.
  • I’ve been thinking about teams as springs: you can put a certain amount of pressure on them and they’ll keep springing back, but if you keep pushing and keep sustaining that pressure, you’ll reach a point where there’s no spring left. Then you don’t have a spring anymore.
  • On the teams note, I’ve been watching Last Chance U. Coming from a sporting background, I find it super interesting that tech teams are rarely run like sports teams, or kitchens for that matter. Why is there no brigade for delivering apps?
  • I made a very small investment in Twine last year; their AI offering is really taking off at the moment, and it’s getting very exciting. Being able to source bespoke, diverse training data at scale is going to become incredibly valuable.

Anyone who has worked with engineers knows that impl. time is not a pure function of complexity, but is greatly affected by their interest in the work.

This tweet by Lea Verou really resonated with me. I’ve experienced this in myself and other developers I’ve collaborated with. IMHO, a “10× engineer” isn’t born purely of talent, but of a combination of domain understanding and vested interest in the problem space.



  • I’ve been spending some evenings getting re-acquainted with Rails; being reminded that ActiveRecord is a super power, and remains the quickest way to get a form validated and persisting to a database. It’s nice to be back to building features, instead of configuring build tools.
  • ViewComponents are a new one for me, but they’re ace and will be a pre-requisite for any new projects.
  • I didn’t have ChatGPT last time I was learning a new language or framework - it’s a game changer for quickly acclimatising and understanding.
  • I’ve been using TS-Pattern in anger; it’s one of those “wish I had this sooner” libraries.
  • It’s been a week, and my fitness goals for this month have slipped severely. I’m digging out a new pond this weekend though, which should turn that around.
  • I’ve been focussing heavily on “the clinch” with my boxing coach and think I might be getting the urge to learn BJJ with some focus.


  • For the first time in my adult life, I took a bonafide job role at the beginning of this year. I’ve subsequently learned how much I value entrepreneurship and building for myself, and so will be returning back to the world of venture building in September.
  • This comment on HN really resonated with me, because it captures a lot of lived experience. Domain understanding and clarity of vision are what drives productivity, not coding prowess.
  • I’m very bullish on Bun, and it’s awesome to see that Fly.io is too. Bun is the closest thing to a native TS runtime, and I think it could be the runtime of the next truely RAD stack.
  • On that note, I ran rails new for the first time in five years. The React & Node ecosystems of late have left me craving an environment based on consistency and consensus.


  • I’ve finally had a chance to dabble with Bun, and I think it might be the nicest way to work with Typescript. No config, no boilerplate - just run it. If you’re just building for the Bun runtime, you don’t even need to Transpile…
  • This tweet highlighted an issue I’ve come up with a few times; Next.js middleware is ineffective in standalone builds. This made me realise how much I miss the power of before_action in Rails. Middleware seems like the logical equivalent, but it’s just not there yet.
  • Lucia is an auth library I can finally get behind; it’s primitive but ergonomic and malleable - very easy to work with.
  • On that note, I noticed support for Astro. shadcn/ui also shipped Astro support this week - is Astro becoming a serious option for app development?
  • I’ve been watching Season 2 of the Bear; it’s one of my favourite shows. The kitchen seems true to life, and certainly tracks with the depictions in Kitchen Confidential. I think there’s a huge amount that startup/tech teams can learn from functional kitchens.


July Goals

Per week:

2× posts here 3× HIIT/weights workouts 1+ climbing session 1+ (kick)boxing session < 2 glasses of wine

Per day:

100 pushups 100 v-situps 15k+ steps (weighted vest) < 50g carbs

Projects:

Go live with Myrtal alpha

Colophon

Giving the blogging thing another go. Super simple stack - but hopefully that means I’ll keep it updated:

I’ll definitely refine the design over time, but let’s see how well I do at keeping this thing up-to-date for now…