Astute Spruce

A complex world

needs simpler solutions.

Too often, we get caught up in the cleverness of our tools and lose sight of meeting real-world needs.

It is not the tool itself that matters, it is what you can do with it that matters.

I partner with science-based organizations to amplify the impact of their work for a healthier world. Healthier ecosystems. Healthier societies.

I develop highly customized web applications and other software solutions to real-world problems.

Each step of the way, I collaborate closely with partners to maximize impact.

What makes me different?

I bridge science and software.

With an advanced degree in landscape ecology and over 13 years professional experience in software engineering and geospatial technologies, I am highly effective at bridging science and software domains to capture the deep science domain experience of clients with cutting edge tools make that science accessible and engaging to their audience.

What this means for you:

  • I am passionately curious about understanding what you do and WHY, so that I can understand your data and leverage that to increase your impact.
  • I take a rigorous experimental approach when developing a new application inspired by my science background. Often at the outset, the character of a new application is a bit unclear, and we discover it through the process of experimenting with different approaches and ways of presenting information to find the best fit.

I focus on impact.

The internet is filled with half-hearted applications that allow users to see data, but no clear actionable outcome. You know what? Those applications don't lead to insights or engagement, and they don't lead to greater impact.

In contrast, I focus on impact from the start: how the application or tool effectively meets a real need and can measurably increase real impact. Is your goal to change user behavior and lead to real on-the-ground activities? Then whatever I build collaboratively with you needs to be strongly aligned around reaching that goal.

What this means for you:

  • I will work closely with you from the very beginning of a project to identify the real needs we are trying to solve. At each step in the development process, we measure ourselves against the impact we are ultimately trying to achieve.

I am highly collaborative.

I firmly believe that we are going to achieve higher impact, together. While I am very self-driven and highly successful at working independently, a highly successful project is the result of us working closely together to clearly identify needs and context, running experiments to explore possible solutions, and clearly targeting the impact you want to achieve through every stage of the project.

What this means for you:

  • I will actively involve you in the design and overall approach used for a project, and help you to understand the tradeoffs in design, implementation, and hosting options.

I am pragmatic and focused on simplicity.

It is easy to get caught up in hype and shiny tools. The tools are only a means to an end: if those tools are too complex, we spend all our time on them instead of what we should really be focused on: impact. Often, when trying to visualize information, teams get carried away with adding power tools for advanced users - only to find in the process that they've alienated their core audience and missed their opportunity to have real impact.

Instead, I focus on distilling things down as much as possible, to create a simple, intuitive experience. In practice, this is very difficult: simplicity is significantly more valuable over the long term than complexity, and also significantly harder to achieve.

What this means for you:

  • While I actively keep up on the latest trends and tools, I only leverage tools and approaches that best meet the need at hand with the lowest effort over the long term. Sometimes, a far simpler but less hyped solution is far superior over the long term.

I am open source by default

I believe that our tools get better when they are shared with and used by more people, and that by openly sharing something of value, we get something in return. I'm not an open-source zealot though, so I will work with you to find the right balance for your project. In practice, many of the libraries I create are open source, and some of the applications I create for clients are not.

What this means for you:

  • I will leverage a range of open source solutions to deliver your project, including open source applications and libraries I've created. Depending on the project, I will actively seek out ways to generalize our work into new libraries, because I firmly believe that is a better value to you over the long term.

Get in touch:

Astute Spruce, LLC
Brendan C. Ward
Owner | Lead software engineer
Phone: 541-250-9544
Oregon, USA