Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2014: where it is cool to be smart.

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I bet you didn’t know that I have been involved in helping bring the Maker Faire to Toronto. Our last year’s Mini Maker Faire was amazingly successful. For those of you not familiar with the Maker Faire, it is the greatest show and tell faire EVER, ok with perhaps The Great Exhibition as an exception! I have been attending the Maker Faire in California for years now and was thrilled when I started seeing Maker Faires popping up all over the world. Our 2013 Toronto Mini Maker Faire was amongst hundreds of faires held worldwide. And last weekend New York City’s Maker Faire was the 5th annual Maker Faire in New York City. It was also the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Faire at the same site. The first Maker Faire was held in San Francisco in 2007. And this year we celebrated over 100 Maker Faires of which 65 were in North America!

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For those of you not in the know (yes, the 3 of you) Maker Faires are award winning family friendly faires at the intersection of technology, education, science, arts, crafts, engineering, food, sustainability and more. Our Toronto Mini Maker Faire in 2013 was a geek celebration and it was amazing to see so many families, makers, engineers, children, artists, performers – all 4,000 of you! Thanks for joining us and making the Faire AWESOME. Our workshops were sold out, our makers incredibly busy demonstrating their creations, we ran out of space, it was crowded … it was insane… and electrical!

This year we are back at it and planning an even bigger faire. And we hope you will join us because it will be incredibly fun and you will be at the center of the third industrial revolution :) The idea of making something ourselves is not new. We have been makers and creators for centuries. But making viewed through the lens of the Maker Faire is about bringing together a set of disciplines that at first look don’t relate to each other: arduinos and music, engineering and light, micro controllers and (robot) giraffes.

And honestly, where else would you see incredible projects, meet fantastic makers and find yourself amongst thousands of maker friends aged between 9 and 90!

So this year, don’t miss the Toronto Mini Maker Faire happening in November. It is free. And it will be awesome.

  • When: Saturday November 21 and Sunday November 22, 2014
  • Where: Toronto Reference Libarary
  • Registration: is open now and is FREE.

And just to get you dreaming, here are highlights of the New York Maker Faire 2014 which wrapped up last weekend. I had a blast and so will you in Toronto in just a few weeks!

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Russell the electric giraffe is probably my most favourite Maker Faire project! I have been watching Russell grow since 2007! Here is an awesome trip down memory line with Russell.

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“Digital Being” (in the above photograph) is a series of kinetic installations made of technological garbage. The installation at the New York Maker Faire was shaped like Manhattan. Taezoo Park who is a digital artist based in NYC creates these installations  and asks what if an invisible and formless creature could be born from and within the circuits of electronic waste? If you saw the children interacting with it, you would have your answer! Below is an image from one his previous installations (not at the faire):

Digital Being

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The InMoov is open source, 3D printed and lifesize! Photo by Becca Henry, reporting by David Beauchamp.

RadBlackKidsThulani Ngazimbi from the Rad Black Kids makes custom longboards and guitars. The group also plants a tree for every product sold. Photo by Becca Henry, reporting by David Beauchamp.

StephenHawesStephen Hawes shows off his wrist mounted flamethrower. It is controlled by an Arduino board and uses a modified taser circuit for ignition. Photo by Becca Henry, reporting by David Beauchamp.

One of my favourite maker at the New York Maker Faire was Justin Weiner from BWArchitects with his artistic light installation. I helped him set up on Saturday early morning. I don’t have a video of his faire installation in the evening but this Tribeca video will give you an idea of its awesomeness.

 

So mark your calendar for the Toronto Mini Maker Faire and join us to celebrate tinkerers, inventors, and the next generation of makers, believe me when I say it will restore your faith in humanity.

Stone Soup Toronto Edition

On Wednesday I attended Toronto’s first edition of Stone Soup organized by my good friends Stuart Candy and Ceda Verbakel. It was a combination dinner party and storytelling. When the invitation landed in my inbox mentioning sharing a story, food in the form of a potluck and the company of 15 hand picked friends and strangers I rsvped with a hell yes!

For those unfamiliar with the Stone Soup story, the story goes like this: a traveler arrives in a village with nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon her arrival, she asks for assistance from the villagers for dinner and shelter for the night. The villagers are unwilling to part with any food or provide assistance as times are hard. The traveler having a cooking pot goes to a stream and fills it with water and puts it above a fire. She then drops a large stone in the cooking pot. A first villager walks by and asks her what she is doing to which she responds “making stone soup” which tastes wonderful however it needs a bit of additional flavouring which she is missing. The villager does not mind parting with a few carrots to help out. So that gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot as well, and the traveler mentions that the stone soup in the making still needs more garnishes to reach its full potential. This villager hands her a bit of seasoning to add to the soup. And slowly as villagers walk by and inquire as to what’s cooking and each part with a little something that can be added to the soup, the village ends up with a stone soup that is delicious and feeds everyone.

The Stone Soup version I am familiar with is la soupe au caillou by Father Phillipe Barbe (1771). I always loved the original ending.

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Growing up I was a big fan of fables. Bonjour Jean de La Fontaine! Anyone remember La cigale et la fourmi? The entire collection of Barbe contes et fables philosophiques is accessible online and it is a wonderful read (albeit you will need to speak French!).

I am sure there are many many variations of the Stone Soup story and a version to suit pretty much any country or culture. It is such an adaptable story with a beautiful ending.

Last night’s first edition of Stone Soup in Toronto was in theory a pretty simple event: get a few people together for dinner, ask everyone to bring a dish since dinner was potluck style and pick a theme for the evening. Yesterday’s theme was “first”.

The evening started in the garden with drinks and nibbles. It was a wonderful evening under the Toronto spring skies.

InthegardenAt some point in time, Stuart ask everyone to proceed to the living room, much to my dismay, I mean it is spring in Toronto, why would anyone spend time indoors when they can be outside? :)

StoneSoupTorontoThe potluck spread was impressive! We started the dinner portion of the evening and by the time I sat down at the table you could hardly hear yourself think: everyone was engrossed in conversations – pretty much like any dinner party you would be invited to!

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Stuart called everyone’s attention to the beginning of the story sharing part of the evening. Sharing a story required one to stand at the head of the table . Standing at the head of the table was a bit un-nerving for some participants but it was a good idea as it changed the dynamics of the room: suddenly you became the story teller and everyone around you the audience. It was interesting to hear the participants stories throughout the evening and see the room get transformed by the story teller one story at a time. The most amazing thing for me to watch and notice was how everyone paid attention to the story teller. The audience’s attention was focused on the storyteller and the story. Very similar to a stage performance – much more informal of course – with a dynamic of engagement with the audience: people nodding, approving, laughing but ultimately completely focused on the story teller.

Seeing the event unfold reminded me that events that seem to flow really well, be unformal and facilitate an intimacy, honesty and generosity that you rarely see are really orchestrated events. The Stone Soup evening was informal but Stuart and Ceda provided an invisible structure that made for an evening that everyone loved. Each of the rituals of the evening helped shape the evening’s experience:

  • (volunteer) storytellers were asked to stand at the head of the table to tell their story. This changed the dynamics of the group and the relationship with everyone. Suddenly you were speaking and everyone was paying attention. The additional “rule” was that anyone can tell a story but no one has to.
  • the invited participants were a mixture of friends and strangers. This was a group that was easy to get along with. Some of the people knew each other and facilitated introductions and inclusion in conversations. There was no ice to break!
  • There was a theme: “first” which could really be interpreted any way one wished, but it guided the story lines of all participants. The theme was provided in advance (in the invitation email) which gives everyone the possibility to prepare a story. I think the theme does a bit more than guide the evening’s stories: it also gives everyone a chance to reflect in advance of the evening and perhaps arrive at the event prepared to be immersed in the theme.
  • There was great food prepared by everyone and ready to share.
  • The first speakers were selected by Stuart. They had volunteered to tell a story ahead of the evening and I believe they did set the tone for the evening. Correction: Stuart simply asked people as they arrived if they had a story to tell, for the ones who did, he asked them if they would be ok with going 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. A lot more fluid than a direct selection!
  • Dogs were welcome (and spoiled with treats!)

ZazieThe evening’s storytellers came alive while telling their stories and the room shared their excitement. I am looking forward to the next installment as it was a bit of a magical evening where the currency exchanged was attention: undivided attention paid to the story teller. I think I have made new friends. Congrats Ceda and Stuart for bringing Stone Soup to Toronto.

A la prochaine.

Art Hackathon!

I wrapped up 2013 with a robotics hackathon which was incredibly exciting and I am starting the year with an art hackathon, the Gen Art Hackathon! I am really excited to be helping organize and support this next hackathon which is the brain child of my friend Xavier Snelgrove.

What is the Gen Art Hack: for starters, Gen Art or Generative Art (thanks Wikipedia!) refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. In this case a computer. Instead of using brush strokes we will be using algorithms to create masterpieces to share with the world.

The hackathon will be bringing together programmers interested in visual design and arts to play with new dynamic web technologies to create art. It will be a fast-paced lively environment where everyone is encouraged to have fun, collaborate and create.

And this little hackathon is already sold out! We have a waiting list if you are interested in being added to the wait list.

Our plan is very simple: the hackathon is a single day hackathon but we will get together on Friday to meet each other, learn what we don’t know in a series of workshops and figure out what we will be building on Saturday.

The Plan

We’ll run workshops on Friday, introducing you to the APIs (Canvas, WebGL, etc.) if you haven’t used them yet. You will be expected to have at least some basic programming knowledge. The next morning, the hackathon starts: we provide food and drink, fueling you while you create.

When and Where

The Gen Art Hackathon is taking place in the TinEye HQ in Toronto. Friday February 15th and Saturday February 16th.

Workshops start at 7 PM on Friday, February 15th. These will be a great place to meet your fellow hackers and artists, and brush up on your coding skills. The next morning, Saturday, February 16th at 10 AM, the hackathon begins. We hack all day, have dinner, and then at 7 PM have a public art opening, and you can show off your works.

What you can do ahead of the hackathon?

Connect with other hackers, check out the hackathon resources and brush up on your skills, start thinking about what you may build. Visit Form Follows Function and play with some of the gen art examples:

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 Another great resource has been put together by Mikael Hvidtfeldt Christensen, a physicist with a passion for computational chemistry, generative art, and complex systems in general.

We can’t wait to see you on February 15th!

Did somebody say hardware? Hardware hackathon in Toronto.

Love a hardware hackathon? I am sure you do! Haven’t you heard hardware is the next big thing? This internet of things is for realz! Have you ordered you new Raspberry Pi yet?

Hardware hackathons: it is about designing and building something. So if you are interested in learning about hardware, designing something of your own and building it in a weekend then the Get Your Bot on is your hackathon.

As most you know I am a big fan of hackathons, and this one is no different except it is all hardware.

Get Your Bot On will bring together software and hardware hackers, makers, designers, geeks, hardware and software partners, mentors, judges and DIY curious.

Get Your Bot On will be held in the Mozilla offices; we will take care of all your refueling needs and more during the weekend and of course will provide all the hardware you will need to build your robot.

Here is everything you need to know:

  • This is a weekend hackathon so you will have plenty of time to build something, preferably a robot that moves. But if you have your heart set on building an articulated panda, well you can do that too
  • We will provide everything you need to build your robot or complete your project so there is no need for you to worry about any hardware. If you have special requests, please get in touch and we will see how we can help you.
  • We will provide mentors to guide you and answer all your questions while you are building
  • We will feed you and entertain you, but to win our prizes, you will need to impress our judges with your awesome creation.

Details: Friday November 23 to Sunday November 25, 2012

  • Friday, Nov. 23. 6:30pm – 9pm – at TinEye, 223 Queen St E, Toronto
    • meet your fellow hackers
    • find teammates
    • check out the kit
    • share project ideas
    • have a craft beer, grilled cheese sandwich, snacks and deserts!
  • Saturday, Nov. 24. 10am – 10pm - at Mozilla, 366 Adelaide St W, Suite 500, Toronto
    • get organized and start building
    • Build! Build! Build!
  • Sunday, Nov. 25. 10am – 4pm – at Mozilla, 366 Adelaide St W, Suite 500, Toronto
    • finish your robot
    • show it off at 1pm to our select judges
    • win a prize
    • join us for a post robo drink

How you can get involved:

Register to attend. Registration is now open but space is limited, so don’t procrastinate if you want us to hold a spot for you.

Know any sponsors? TinEye is proud to be a sponsor but the hackathon is looking for more sponsors to make this an awesome event. You can become a sponsor today, pick a sponsorship level you are comfortable with and help support this hackathon. If can’s sponsor but you know anyone who can help us offset the costs of the hackathon, please get in touch.

– Help us offset the cost of hardware by simply sponsoring some hardware. You can support our hardware acquisitions from as little as $1. Sponsor hardware now.

Come Get Your Bot On it is after all a hardware renaissance!

[Photograph (c) C.M. Keiner]

Toronto GirlGeek: the algorithms edition!

I am really excited to be speaking at the next Toronto Girl Geek evening. I remember attending one of the first Girl Geek dinners in London in 2005. It was organized by Sarah Blow, the founder of Girl Geeks. That evening was pretty much magical: I met Robert Scobble and Maryam Scobble. I also met Hugh MacLeod, Ben Metcalfe, Henriette Weber Andersen and a lot of awesome attendees whose names I can no longer recall unfortunately! It was a surprising evening, full of technology discussions, blogging, changing the world conversations and great wine – I vaguely remember a wine sponsorship there! Next week the Toronto Girl Geek evening is all about Algorithms. And that’s of course something I am super excited about!

Not only am I speaking but TinEye will be hosting in our offices. I would suggest that you get a ticket, but I hear it is sold out! Can’t believe that there are that many people interested in hearing about algorithms!

Inspire more women and girls into a career in science, engineering or technology by supporting Girl Geek Dinners. Perhaps your company could host the next one?

Pre to postmortem: the inside story of the death of Palm and webOS

The Verge has an awesome story about Palm. God I love (loved?) Palm.

Thirty-one.

That’s the number of months it took Palm, Inc. to go from the darling of International CES 2009 to a mere shadow of itself, a nearly anonymous division inside the HP machine without a hardware program and without the confidence of its owners. Thirty-one months is just barely longer than a typical American mobile phone contract.

They didn’t know there were limits on what men could do

The 1924 Everest expedition team, with (rear left and second left) Sandy Irvine and George Mallory, whose deaths left an enduring mystery. Photograph: The Times/Camera Press Digital

Into the silence is a magnificent account of the British assaults on Everest in the 1920s puts Mallory’s adventures in the context of war and imperialism. It took 12 years to research and write.

Changing the ratio: we won’t stop until we change the ratio.

Seriously. I know. It is a million times better to be starting and running a software company then talking about women in technology. Totally agreed! Speaking like someone who actually loves running her software firm! But… that said, it is hard not to point out where things can be improved in my community. And to be told to just shut up, well that’s a bit rude don’t you think?

So what’s all the fuss about? Confoo which bills itself as bringing under one roof PHP Québec, Montréal-Python, Montreal.rb, Montreal Jug, W3Qc, OWASP Montréal, Android Montreal and local web developers. Confoo has 109 speakers in total. 5 of them are women. 5. It is not a typo. Earlier in the day they had 105 speakers.

This is not the first year of the conference, nor the first time, the community has pointed out the lack of women: same ratio for 2011, and 2010.

Now: what I would really like to do is open a dialog and see how our community can help confoo, because it obviously needs the help and because we care. But first, we need to have a dialog:

Because you know, pointing out an issue makes me a sexist, closed minded and disrespectful person.

Oh yeah, now we are really talking about the issue at hand. My followers are thoroughly impressed. But perhaps not what was intended!

It never hurts to restate the obvious.

Unless of course …

Well, if by IT feminist crusaders Ms. Anna Filina is referring to CEOs of software firms and founders, then I am guilty, and if by IT we are talking about the software industry, then guilty again! Darn you got me!

But seriously: let’s grab a coffee and talk about how we can change the ratio. And no, it has nothing to do with the toys you play with when you are a child. There are so many awesome people working at changing the ratio (and running software firms) and all we need is first a dialog, then an action plan. Let’s talk. Let’s change. And let’s not call each other names. That’s just not NICE and the internet is so all kinds of nice. kthxbai!

Sorry, got to get back to running a software firm.