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November 03, 2010 21:03 +0100  |  Moving Unemployment Work [at] Play 3

Nearly ten years ago, after a gruelling week of work and late nights trying to get a product out the door, my colleagues and I came into work, bleary eyed, but proud of the site we'd been able to finish on-time and to-spec. We were met with a group meeting, in which roughly two thirds of us were informed that we no longer had a job. It was devastating to most of us, but we all recovered, and learnt from all of this an important lesson: that the business world can be cold, and it's best to be prepared for the worst.

I've managed to benefit from that lesson a few times now. Working in IT, you get used to the often temporary nature of your work, and sometimes that of your employer. You make preparations for an abrupt exodus, establish connections within the community, and find ways to make the transition easier. It's never easy, but over the years it's become less-difficult.

Unfortunately, I've had to deal with such a situation today. My (now former) employer, Work at Play gave me the pink slip this morning, along with another coworker. They're restructuring, position is redundant, etc. etc. The end result is that I'm out of work, just two months before my planned exit and relocation to Somewhere in Europe. To their credit though, the process was respectful and not at all like my exit from Moshpit Entertainment so long ago.

I've already started branching out, looking for ways to cover bills and do some more saving before my exit, and I've been considering bumping up my timetable if that seems to work for everyone. Having never done a move of this magnitude, I'm unsure of which decisions to make on all of these new fronts. I do have some promising leads for some short-term contract work though, so money may not be a problem. We'll see.

June 25, 2010 22:12 +0200  |  Career Green Party My Future Politics Self Reflection Travel Why I'm Here Work [at] Play 9

I had a rather enlightening conversation with an Old Friend over lunch yesterday. John, a former co-worker at Work [at] Play and I meet for lunch every few months, mostly to catch up on each other's lives and talk about how things are going at my present employer. He's since moved on to be the COO at VirtualDoubloon but we got along so well, that I figured the friendship was worth the maintenance.

This time around, we didn't talk about my current employer so much as how my life was moving in general. I was on the verge of my 31st birthday and coming out of both a romantic relationship and a (thankfully unrelated) business co-founding partnership and "what's next" was the primary topic of discussion.

He asked about my political career, specifically whether I'd run in the next election, and I explained that I'd love to if the riding association in North Vancouver-Seymour is unable to find a candidate, but outside of that, every topic we hit on didn't produce any enthusiasm from me. The truth is, I haven't been motivated by much since I moved here. I've been unable to get excited about the activist scene, and frankly my job stopped being interesting over a year ago.

This line of thinking gets worse when I consider that about six months ago I was in the very same position I am now. I was re-evaluating my whole reasoning for being in Vancouver and was so desperate for something to hold me here that I jumped at the chance to start a company with a stranger -- which for the record is not a good idea :-)

Since our conversation though, I've come to realise that too many of my decisions in this life so far have been ones governed by how those actions might affect others. This isn't to say that I've been a terribly selfless person, rather that I've let my own happiness be hindered by whether or not decision x was a Right decision, or whether it would make people I love unhappy.

I'm not going to do that anymore.

This can mean a variety of things. I might take dance classes, or join a choir, or even take this job. I might move to Stockholm, Amsterdam, Berlin, or Seoul too... I'm not sure yet. I'm just done with letting my happiness be governed by externalities.

31years in... I guess it's better late than never.

March 16, 2010 06:40 +0100  |  Personal Life Self Development Self Reflection Stephanie TheChange.com Work [at] Play 3

I thought that I might take this opportunity to post a little catch-up. I've been neglecting this blog for a while now and since it serves a number of purposes, not the least of which is personal record given my shoddy memory I should at the very least keep it up to date with what's going on in my life.

I'm busy. Incredibly busy. Some time ago Shawna pointed me to an article about how busy people live a sort of half life. We never do anything completely, are never able to invest ourselves in something whole-heartedly because we're constantly juggling too much. This has always been a problem for me, but at least now I'm starting to recognise it. The next step of course is to do something about it... suggestions are welcome :-)

So, lets chronicle this latest incarnation of "busy" shall we?

Let's start with the awesome. There's a girl. I've mentioned her before, but now that we're officially together (Facebook says so!), I want to gush a little more again. All that stuff in the aforelinked post is totally true. My heart skips when she smiles and she gets excited about the coolest, nerdiest things. We have a lot in common and this has led to a number of fun conversations and potentially a new project or two. It's all that good stuff that a new relationship is supposed to be, with the promise of some staying-power to boot. I'm going to work really hard not to screw this one up :-)

There's also the paying job, a.k.a., my role as senior programmer at Work [at] Play. They've got me doing a lot of Drupal work lately (boo!), but in the wake of my trip up to DjangoSki, there's a chance that we'll be doing a big project in Django soon (yay!). This is rather exciting, since I'm probably the best versed Python/Django person in the office, so I'd be working in more of a mentorship role rather than just a grunt programmer.

Then there's my new company: theChange.com. Bigger, meaner than a job, starting a business is exhausting work. I suppose that it wouldn't be so rough if you could build the company 9-5, Monday-Friday, but when you have to eat, it's a little more taxing. We have 3hour meetings now, twice a week, after I've been working for a previous 8, and we've broken down the "stuff to do" list into 5 (well, 4 now) week increments in preparation for our Big Public Launch in April. Annalea is super-hardcore, and an amazing person to work with... I just don't know if I have the energy some days.

Lastly, my father is working on a project of his own that he hopes will help my parents retire. It's a complex machine that requires, at the heart of it, a Sheevaplug running software I've written to handle talking to a PLC and magnetic card reader. It's some fun and crazy code, and so far, it's mostly worked... mostly.

Outside of the above, much of my former priorities are fading away. My involvement with the Greens has tapered off considerably, though that's due in large part to the absence of an election (or sitting government) for some time. My work with the VPSN pretty much died over the summer with our last cataloguing of the CCTV cameras in the city. I don't really miss the VPSN stuff, but my work with the Greens was really rewarding.

I suppose that somewhere in there, I'm supposed to find some personal time, but if I ever do, it always ends up being an evening of me wrestling with the fact that I could(should?) be working on our site. Mentally, I'm rather worn out of late.

And that's it for me. I'll do what I can to come up with something super-exciting for my next post. ...or maybe it'll be a lame meme. I haven't done one of those for a long time. Suggestions?

December 11, 2009 00:58 +0100  |  Science and Nature Seattle Society & Culture Technology Work [at] Play 4

Way back in September, I went on a "professional development" trip down to Seattle, Americaland for a conference called Gnomedex. The official line on the shindig is that it's all about "human circuitry", the ways in which society interacts with technology and what comes out of it all. The whole thing sounded rather interesting, so I convinced my employer to send me down there on their dime. However, as part of the deal, I had to "report back" on my experiences there... a job I've neglected 'till now. So, in an effort to fill that reporting gap, while simultaneously rejuvenating my slowly staling blog I'm going to post it all here:

General Impressions

I'll get these out of the way so you know whether you want to keep reading or not. I know that the title sounds rather interesting for the sociology-types, tech-nerds, and those that dabble in either but really Gnomedex can be summed up in one sentence: 300 people in a room for 10 hours talking about Twitter. That's it kids, if you're looking for a broader meaning or more interesting conference, Gnomedex isn't it. In fact, if you're a technical type (as I am), I'd go so far as to say that you should avoid this event like the plague.

For starters, the whole thing is a single-track, meaning that at any given time, there's one presentation happening and if it's more boring than watching paint dry, your only alternative is to step out into the hall and socialise with the herds of marketing people trading business cards and dropping names. For many though, this single-track focus is a feature and not a bug. The assumption being that everyone is collectively participating via Twitter during the presentation, people are constantly posting little 140character quips about the talk, and tagging everything #Gnomedex.

A neat experiment in social engineering to be sure... or at least it would be if the technology would cooperate. Internet connectivity was flaky at best, and when you could get online, sites aggregating the #Gnomedex hash-tag were freezing up, crashing out or just not responding. Behold: the future of monolithic service architecture. Look upon it and be unimpressed.

The conference also has a very cliquey feel to it, with the majority of people attending returning from previous years, most everyone knows everyone from the last time they were here. Much like Vancouver, Seattle seems to have a rather tight-knit community of social media junkies that really get off on this sort of thing. I'm sure it's nice for them, to have the opportunity to see in-person, those with whom they've been tweeting back and forth for a year, but for someone like myself, in from out of town to learn something... no fun.

The last general note I'll make here is that the event was a big hit with the big corporations. Micros~1 was out in force, pushing Bing like crazy, Starbucks was pushing their new instant coffee, and Amazon was trying to look all edgy by posting some Java code on a wall and asking people to attempt to "solve" it. The only problem? They didn't have anyone on-site that actually understood the code.

Talk: Thingiverse & Makerbot

The coolest part of the conference was generously scheduled at the start. The Makerbot is the future of product distribution. Here's how it works:

  1. You buy a makerbot machine
  2. You download a model file of what you want
  3. The makerbot "prints" it.

Often referred to as a "3D printer", the makerbot will make you anything you want (of a reasonable size) out of ABS plastic. Just keep it supplied with low-cost spools of plastic and feed in whatever 3D model you can find online and *poof* you have one. Potential uses include the practical: the little plastic knob on the A/C unit that broke off last week, to the functional: ornate boxes or jewellery, to the fun & crazy: a 1:1 scale model of Darth Vader's helmet, or Walt Disney's head. Really cool stuff, and lots of potential. The machines sell for just under $750/each, but are produced in batches so they might not be able to ship you one right away until they've filled the order for the batch.

I want one so hardcore.

fold.it

The premise sounded like a good idea, but someone really should have vetted the presenter. fold.it is a nifty video game that has you folding proteins. The idea is that protein folding (Wikipedia) is such a complex process that relying on computers to do the work just isn't practical. However, the scientific community just doesn't have the manpower to do it all manually. So instead, they made a video game that lets non-nerds use natural human understanding to do the job. Fold a protein and experience the joys of flashing lights, bouncing things and celebratory music. Rinse, repeat. It may sound silly, but this tactic is a growing field out there because it works.

Unfortunately, the presenter was 99% scientist, 1% people-person. The presentation was dry, boring, way, way, way over-technical and few people, if anyone in the room had any inkling as to what he was talking about.

Full video of the presentation can be found here.

Spam

This presentation was done by an ex-spammer, about the tactics his former industry of choice use to do that which we despise. Some of the more interesting tactics included:

  • Paying $50 to a student for her login so they could spam an entire .edu domain from her account.
  • Hacking sites to insert code that would redirect people to another spam site, or just pay the site owner to do it for them.
  • Comment spam (posting "comments" on blog posts all over the web that tell you about the awesome power of Viagra)
  • Using tools like "autopligg" to spam digg.com with spam.
  • Creating new blog sites using content from other people's sites (they access your RSS feed) and then riddle the copied site with ads.

Ignite

This guy has what he thinks is a brilliant idea: bring the concept of brevity out of Twitter and into in-person presentations. Take a topic, any topic and talk about it for no more than 5 minutes with 20 slides, at 15 seconds/slide. We sat through about 5 or 10 of these. Uninteresting and uninformative. Seriously people, this is not a good idea, it's just a way to pretend that you can be informed on something while simultaneously not knowing anything about anything.

My Cancer is Social

Drew Olanoff has Cancer, and he's dealing with it by sharing his experiences with the world. For just over 30minutes, Drew talked about what it was like for him to be hit by the news, how it affected him and his family and how reaching out to his online social community (many of the members of which were in the audience) has helped him cope. He's since created a site called Blame Drew's Cancer as a way to make light of, and deal with his situation and there's been a rather large outpouring of support.

There was a lot of hugging, and touchy-feelyness which I obviously didn't identify with, but as a social outsider looking in on the process, I found the whole thing rather fascinating.

Full video of the presentation can be found here.

Frank Eliason - A Twitter Top 10 List with Humour

A Twitter success story. Frank worked at Comcast in support and decided that it might be a good idea to run a Twitter account for the company, so he set one up. Then, he started noticing people bitching out the company for one reason or another, so he responded with something to the effect of: "ok, I'll get right on that" and went about fixing it. The result: a spike in customer satisfaction and stuff got done.

For the purposes of the presentation, he put together a top ten list of reasons why a company should get on board with Twitter and I'm not going to re-post it here. It's already on the Gnomedex blog.

Full video of the presentation can be found here.

Hacker Journalism (Mark Glaser)

Far and away the most disappointing presentation of the conference, though admittedly this is due in part to the rather low expectations I had for the other talks. If anything, this one suffers from a poor choice of title. Rather than "Hacker Journalism", he could have properly adjusted my expectations with something like "Data Reporting with a Purpose" or something.

Glaser's position was simple: journalism is a way of presenting data in a way that helps people understand it, so hacker journalism is using one's mad it-skillz to take big blobs of data and turn them in to non-nerd-friendly graphs and maps. He asked the audience to make suggestions for data mash-ups with maps and/or pie charts etc and then went on to demo a few examples of similar work already out there. One that I make a note of was the Obameter, a graphing app that takes stock of the promises made, kept, and ignored during the course of President Obama's administration. Neat stuff.

Unfortunately, Glaser has a tendency to throw around the term "hacker" in all kinds of contexts 'till the meaning is really quite gone. I get the impression that he thinks that anyone who can use Yahoo pipes is a hacker, or someone who can use Google Maps to draw something nifty should also wear such a title.

In the end, the talk was more about how maps + stats = mash-ups = awesome, and not so much about front-line independent journalism. As this was the presentation to which I was most looking forward, I was rather disappointed.

NerdCraft (Beth Goza)

As cute and fun as this was, I really don't understand how this presentation made it into the event. There was nothing technical or really even social about it, rather Goza talked at length about the subculture of nerd crafters, people who knit, sew, and crochet all kinds of stuff, from sci-fi characters, to katamari costumes. Some of the stuff she had was crazy:

  • Crochet Star Wars characters
  • A knitted panel of the entire first level of Super Mario Brothers (wo baby, awesome)
  • Some crazy person knitted/crocheted a life-size Ferrari
  • A little crochet Hellboy
  • And DnD dice!

All-in-all, I'm not convinced that her presentation was appropriate for the event, but it was a nice break from the rest of it.

Full video of the presentation can be found here. You should check this one out, it's fun :-)

Audience vs. Impact (Giant Ant Media (@giantantmedia))

There to talk to us about what works in social media was the couple that started Giant Ant Media. They opened with some examples of where they started: making 2min flicks about fart jokes, and followed this with what they were doing now, a documentary about youth in Africa called Bongo. The focus of the talk though was really about how to cultivate an online community. Find what both you and your users love and do it. Don't lie, or try to misrepresent yourself because your audience can smell it. Just focus on honesty in production, be it blogging or richer media and all will be good.

Full video of the presentation can be found here.

Closing

The conference was long, and really not much fun, but I salvaged a few nuggets of wisdom from the whole ordeal, my favourite of which was this:

The difference between knowledge and expertise is trust. Knowledge can be acquired, but unrecognised, isn't much use to anyone, while expertise is given by others who offer you their own credibility in praise of your knowledge. In the knowledge economy, this is kind of a big deal.

...and I think that that's where I'll close this one out. Next year, maybe my employer will send someone more marketing-friendly. Nerds really don't belong at Gnomedex.

November 04, 2009 08:02 +0100  |  Employment Scrubby TheChange.com Work [at] Play 3

I'm tagging this one as "Employment" for lack of a better word, but frankly, that's not really accurate. My work life appears to be rapidly branching away from the employer/employee relationship and into running the show myself. The question is becoming one of "how much time do I have?" rather than "with whom can I find work?"

That's right, I'm bringing back the old-school "don't start a sentence with a preposition thing. You're just going to have to deal ;-)

The details: three months ago I was just working at Work [at] Play as a senior software developer, and for all the griping I do about the neighbourhood and the office, it's really a pretty cool place to work. The truth of it though is that I felt like I was stagnating, not doing anything useful with my life, and what's worse, I was rotting like this in Vancouver. I was ready to get the hell out of here at the drop of a hat -- to go anywhere really, just as long as it was sufficiently urban, interesting and wasn't here.

That all changed when Melanie forwarded an interesting "job" posting my way. A young, local entrepreneur was looking for a technical co-founder for a new company wanting to encourage business to do the Right thing by making it profitable to do so. To use an idea from Paul Hawken, our company would help other companies grow like trees, with deep roots, rather than like grass with no sustainable future. The details are complicated, and still a little secret, so I can't share them here, but the point is that I've signed on to make this thing happen. It may implode, but I don't think it will, and in the mean time, I'll have the opportunity to Use My Powers For Good... and that's all I've ever really wanted anyway.

But now things are getting crazy. Less than a week since I've entered into this partnership, I've been contacted by two separate parties wanting me to serve in a senior technical capacity for their enterprises as well. All three ideas sound promising, two of them are Good companies, the third, while run by a good, honest, person I trust, is more about the money and less about Making the World Better. All three are offering very little if any money to start.

The truth is, I can't do all three and keep my job at Work [at] Play. I probably can't even do two, though it'd be nice since one of the other two can pay a little. As it is, I've talked to the brass at my current employer and asked them to figure out a way that I might be able to work 4days/week for them so I can devote two days each week to my new partnership, and while they're currently mulling it over, I'm reasonably confident that they'll find that it's good for everyone if we can make it work.

But for now? things are CRAZY. I honestly don't know what my situation will be in a few weeks. And strangely enough... I like it this way. Who knew?

June 15, 2009 21:07 +0200  |  Activism Drupal Free Software Linux PHP Software Technology Work [at] Play 0

I attended my first ever OpenWeb conference yesterday and as per company policy, I have to report on and share what I learnt, so what better way to do so then to make a blog post for all to read?

General

OpenWeb is awesome. It's a conference where people from all over the world come to talk about Open design and communication and hopefully, learn to build a better web in the process. Attendees include programmers, entrepreneurs, designers, activists and politicians all with shared goals and differing skillsets. I shook hands with Evan Prodromou, the founder of identi.ca and WikiTravel, heard talks from the guys who write Firefox and Thunderbird as well as the newly-elected representative for the Pirate Party in the European Parliament, Rickard Falkvinge. All kinds of awesome I tell you.

Rickard Falkvinge: Keynote - On the Pirate Party

Founder of the Pirate Party in Sweden and now a representative in the European Parliament (thanks to proportional representation), Falkvinge was a passionate and eloquent speaker who covered the history of copyright, the present fight for greater control of so-called intellectual property and more importantly the far-reaching and very misunderstood effects of some of the legislation being passed to "protect" copyright holders while eliminating privacy rights for the public.

The talk was very in depth and difficult to cover in a single post so I encourage you to ask me about it in person some time. For the impatient though, I'll try to summarise:

The copyright debate isn't about downloading music, that's just a byproduct of the evolution of technology. As the printing press gave the public greater access to information, so has the Internet managed to disperse that information further. The problem is now that the changing landscape has rendered certain business models ineffective, these business are fighting to change our laws to preserve said model rather than change with the times. Ranging from the frustratingly shortsighted attempts to ban technologies that further file sharing (legal or otherwise) to the instant wire tapping on every Internet connection (and by extension phone call) of every free citizen without a warrant, many of these changes are very, very scary.

"All of this has happened before, and it will happen again" he said. Every time a technological advancement creates serious change for citizen empowerment in society, the dominant forces in that society mobilise to crush it. The Catholic church, gatekeepers of the lion's share of human knowledge at the time actively worked to ban the printing press. They succeeded (if you can believe it) in France in 1535. This time, it's the media companies and they're willing to do anything, including associating file sharing with child pornography and terrorism to do it. Falkvinge's Pirate party is becoming the beachhead in the fight for copyright reform. Now the party with the largest youth delegation (30%!) in Sweden, they are working to get the crucial 4% of the seats in Parliament they need to hold the balance of power and they need your help. He'd like you to send the party 5€ or 10€ per month and I'm already on board.

Angie Byron: Keynote - Women in Open Source

Those of you who know me, know that I can get pretty hostile when it comes to treating women like a special class of people (be the light positive or negative) so I was somewhat skeptical about this one. Thankfully, I was happy to hear Byron cover a number of issues with the Free software community ranging from blatant sexism (CouchDB guys... seriously?) to basic barriers to entry for anyone new to a project. There were a lot of really helpful recommendations to people wanting to engage 100% of the community rather than just one half or the other.

Blake Mizerany: Sinatra

Sinatra is a Ruby framework that went in the opposite direction of things like my beloved Django or Ruby's Rails. Rather than hide the nuts and bolts of HTTP from the developer, Sinatra puts it right out there for you. Where traditional frameworks tend to muddle GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE into one input stream, this framework structures your whole program into blocks a lot like this:

  require 'rubygems'
  require 'sinatra'
  get '/hi' do
    "Hello World!"
  end

That little snipped up there handles the routing and display for a simple Hello World program. Sinatra's strength is that it's simple and elegant. It lets you get at the real power at the heart of HTTP which is really handy, but from what I could tell in the presentation, there's not a lot available outside of that. Database management is done separately, no ORM layer etc. etc. It's very good for what it does, but not at everything, which (at least in my book) makes it awesome.

Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer: Mozilla Labs

These are the guys who make the Cool New Stuff that comes out of Mozilla. You know those guys, they write a nifty web browser called "Firefox", I'm sure you've heard of them.

Mozilla Labs is where the smart nerds get together to build and experiment with toys that will (hopefully) eventually make it into a finished product. Sometimes that product is an add-on or plug-in, other times it's an entirely new project. It's all about how useful something is to the public. And as always, the code is Free. You may have even heard of Ubiquity, an extension to Firefox that promises to reshape how we use a web browser... they're working on that.

This time through, they were demoing Bespin, a code editor in your web browser. Imagine opening a web browser, going to a page and doing your development there: no need for a local environment, but without the usual disadvantages of aggravating lag or difficult, text-only interface. Now imagine that you can share that development space with someone else in real time and that you can be doing this from your mobile device on a beach somewhere. Yeah, it's that awesome.

We watched as they demoed the crazy power that is the <canvas /> tag by creating a simple text editor, in Javascript right there in front of us... with about 15 lines of code. Really, really impressive.

David Ascher: Open Messaging on the Open Internet

Ascher's talk on Open Messaging was something I was really interested in since I've been actively searching for information on federated social networking for a while now. The presentation was divided into two parts: half covering the history of email and it's slow deprecation in favour of a number of different technologies as well as how people are using it in ways never intended for the architecture. Major problems with the protocol itself were touched on, as well as an explanation about how some of the alternatives out there are also flawed.

He then went on to talk about Mozilla Thunderbird 3 and the variety of cool stuff that's happening with it. "Your mail client knows a lot about you" he says "but until now, we haven't really done a lot with it". Some of the new features for Thunderbird 3 include conversation tracking (like you see in Gmail), helping you keep track of what kinds of email you spend the most time on, who you communicate with most etc. and even statistical charts about what time of day you use mail, what kind of mail you send and to whom how often. It's very neat stuff. Add to this the fact that they've completely rewritten the plug-in support, so new extensions to Thunderbird mean that your mail client will be as useful as you want it to be.

Evan Prodromou: Open Source Microblogging with Laconica

Up until this talk (and with the exception of Falkvinge's keynote), I'd been interested, but not excited about OpenWeb. Prodromou's coverage of Laconica changed all of that.

Founder of WikiTravel and one of the developers on WikiMedia (the software behind Wikipedia), Prodromou has built a federated microblogging platform called Laconica. Think Twitter, but with the ability for an individual to retain ownership of his/her posts and even handle distribution -- with little or no need for technical knowledge required. Here, I made you a diagram to explain:

Federated Laconica vs. Monolithic Twitter
Federated Laconica vs. Monolithic Twitter

Here's how it is: whereas Twitter is a single central source of information, controlled by a single entity (in this case, a corporation), Laconica distributes the load to any number of separate servers owned by different people that all know how to communicate. Where you might be on a server in Toronto, hosted by NetFirms, I could be using a Laconica service hosted by Dreamhost in Honolulu. My posts go to my server, yours go to yours, and when my Twitter client wants to fetch your posts, it talks to NetFirms and vice versa.

The advantages are clear:

  1. Infinite scalability: Twitter's monolithic model necessitates the need for crazy amounts of funding and they still don't have a profit model to account for those costs. Laconica on the other hand means that the load is distributed across potentially millions of hosts (much like the rest of the web).
  2. You control your identity, not a private corporation.

The future is where it gets really exciting though. By retaining ownership of your identity and data, you can start to attach a variety of other data types to the protocol. For the moment, Laconica only supports twitter-like messages, but they're already expanding into file-sharing as well. You'll be able to attach images, video and music files, upload them to your server and share them with whomever is following you. After that, I expect that they'll expand further to include Flickr-like photo streams, Facebook-like friendships and LiveJournal-like blog posts. These old, expensive monolithic systems are going away. In the future we'll have one identity, in one place, that we control that manages all of the data we want to share with others.

Really, really cool stuff.

I went home that night and signed up as a developer on Laconica. I've downloaded the source and will experiment with it this week before I take on anything on the "to do " list. I intend on focusing on expanding the feature set to include stuff that will deprecate the monolithic models mentioned above... should be fun :-)

Drupal Oops

I closed out the evening with some socialising in the hallway and some ranting about how-very-awesome Laconica was to my coworker Ronn, who showed up late in the day. He wandered off in search of my other colleagues and I followed after finishing a recap with Karen Quinn Fung a fellow transit fan and Free software fan. Unfortunately though, I wasn't really paying attention to where Ronn was going, I just followed out of curiosity. It turns that out I had stumbled into a Drupal social where I was almost immediately asked: "so, how do you use Drupal and how much do you love it?" by the social organiser. James gave me a horrified "what the hell are you doing here" look and searching for words, I said something to the effect of "Um, well, I was pretty much just dropping in here looking for my co-workers... oh here they are! -- I like Drupal because it makes it easy for people to make websites, but I don't really use it because it gets in my way. I prefer simple, elegant solutions and working around something just to get it to work is too aggravating." Considering the company, my response was pretty well received. I backed out quietly at the earliest opportunity :-)

So that was OpenWeb, well half of it anyway. I only got a pass for the Thursday. I can't recommend it enough though. Really interesting talks and really interesting people all over the place. I'll have to make sure that I go again next year.

February 06, 2009 08:46 +0100  |  Environment Family Friends Self Reflection Suburbia Why I'm Here Women Work [at] Play 14

People have been sending these my way for days now and the activity seemed so very contrary to my usual behaviour, that I thought that I'd give it a shot. I'm not going to "tag" anyone to do this though since this is my blog and not bloody Facebook, but if you want to share your own, you can post it or link to your own post here in the comments.

Here's the deal. This is a list of 25 random things about me. They're personal, so if you want to know more about me, this might be a scary place to start, but it's your call:

  1. I am a very private person. This may come as a surprise to someone who doesn't know me, as I do after all maintain a blog and all kinds of online profiles. Look carefully though and you'll realise that there's nothing all that personal about me anywhere. I don't share. I'm going to try to make this post an exception.
  2. I'm happy to listen to others though. People like to talk to me -- gods know why. I like to think that I'm a pretty good listener and that my lectures are often helpful.
  3. I never used to care about the environment. In fact, when I moved to Ontario, it was the furthest thing from my mind. It wasn't until I realised that so many people still burned coal to make electricity that I got involved.
  4. As part of a seventh grade public speaking exercise, I wrote a speech titled "Why Does Everyone Talk About Saving the Environment, but No One Does Anything About It?" (or something to that effect). I was then voted as the one to give the speech in front of the whole school. I was so terrified that I skipped a complete paragraph from my cue cards.
  5. I was, and still am, terrified at the prospect of public speaking. In recent years, I've actively combated this fear by repeatedly putting myself in situations where I must speak publicly in one form or another. It's working.
  6. I don't try to save the world out of guilt, or a feeling of responsibility. I do what I do purely out of a sense of principle: I honestly believe that there is a Right way and Wrong way to interact with this planet, and I fight to ensure the former. As Mark Twain said: "Always do right. This will gratify some and astonish the rest".
  7. I am seriously afraid that I will waste away here in Vancouver. Most days I feel as if any ambition I had was left behind in Toronto.
  8. It is because of this fear that I've avoided doing things "for me" in the past like joining a choir. I've always felt like I have a responsibility to act on the aforementioned principles and forgo my own wants until those goals are achieved, but the hollowness and lack of purpose I've felt since returning have caused me to consider some selfish options. I still feel that this is a mistake, but I don't know what else to do.
  9. I love my job. I love the work, the fact that it's constantly challenging and that I'm being given the power/responsibility to write some really fucking awesome code.
  10. I often burn 90% of my work day spinning my mental wheels trying to get my brain out of its funk. I believe this to be related to my poor diet and sleeping schedule... at least I hope that's the case.
  11. I'm so afraid of what it might be if it's not diet or rest that I won't talk to a doctor about it.
  12. I'm constantly concerning myself with others' impressions of me. Alone, at home working on my computer, walking down the street, writing a blog, or deputing at City Hall, the question of how my words may be construed 20years from now is a serious concern to me.
  13. I often catch myself reliving or daydreaming about past or potential future conversations. What was / could've been said, or what will be / should be said, and the rebuttals for each. These conversations sometimes cross over from the mental space into real out-loud annunciations for my part of the exchange -- though this is usually only at home as I'm getting ready for work.
  14. I've developed deep emotional attachments to a number of people scattered around the world. These feelings aren't romantic, but rather almost familial and definitely protective.
  15. I think that my unwillingness to share is likely directly connected to my inability to commit emotionally to someone. Either that or I just haven't met the right girl yet.
  16. My childhood was really quite horrible. My family was wonderful, but my school life in Langley has probably damaged me permanently. Don't raise your kids in the suburbs folks, it doesn't do anyone any good.
  17. My single bastion of sanity in high school was choir practise with Mr. Thompson and Mr. Rahn. They gave me something into which I could pour myself at a time when all I wanted was shut the whole world out. Had it not been for Thompson Tran, the guy who dragged me into choir in the first place, I think that I would be a very different person today.
  18. My parents actively discouraged me from taking music, art, shop, or drama classes in high school. I was told that such activities were for the dumb kids and that I, as a smart person shouldn't waste my time with them. I'm not bitter about this, it's just unfortunate that I missed such an opportunity for a creative outlet for so many years.
  19. I honestly do think that I'm really fucking smart about a lot of things. I don't care if this makes me appear arrogant, condescending or superior. The way I figure it, so long as I'm open to the possibility that someone out there is smarter than I am and I embrace their opinions when I meet them, then it's all good.
  20. I'm attracted to people who are smarter than I am, or have an understanding of the universe drastically different from my own.
  21. I have an image in my head of the girl I'm supposed to be with. I've had dreams about her for years. In these dreams she has long, straight, brown hair and wears a long, stretchy, cotton grey dress. She sings and plays guitar. I am aware that harbouring a fantasy image of a non-existent mate is counter-productive and I don't care.
  22. I'm sometimes frustrated by the maintenance a friendship requires. My feelings toward people don't change with the distance between us or the time between our visits, yet many of my friends seem to think otherwise and try to reconnect repeatedly. I don't begrudge them this, but it's also really hard to make time for everyone as well as myself.
  23. I vividly remember dozens of instances where I've been wrong about something. In all of these cases, I've been sure and was later proven ignorant. This is a serious concern for me so I usually use non-committal fragments in my sentences to assure my position as a non-authority on a topic... Unless I think that I am an authority, at which point any mistakes haunt me permanently.
  24. I cannot tolerate being called "stupid". It's a trigger word for me. I'm alright with naive or ignorant, though these words do flare me up a bit -- usually enough to get me to ask question after question until I'm no longer worthy of either word.
  25. I use the regret model for my decision making: I imagine how I would feel looking back on a situation 20years later and then decide to go with the option that I would likely lead to the least regret.

January 24, 2009 01:05 +0100  |  Family Nifty Links Work [at] Play 1

Linkage is important to the Internet. Search engines index you based on the number of people who link to you and for the marketing types, the buzz generated by blog posts is important as well. With this in mind, I've had a number of people ask me to post about them in my own heavily trafficked blog (seriously, I only get about 15 unique visits a day for chrissake). But regardless, here are the people:

Downtown Eyewear in Kelowna, BC. This is my father's optical store in downtown Kelowna and in case you can't tell from the exceptionally bland aesthetics, I built it visuals and all. My dad's been working in the optical industry for something like 40 years and has own and operated his own stores for 30 of those. Some of you might remember what it was like coming to visit me back in the days of Focal Point Opticians in Willowbrook Mall back when we had a store there, well he's still doing much the same thing, though a lot of his stuff is custom work for the wealthy Kelowna folk these days. If you're ever in town, I suggest dropping by and having a look around, if only to say hi to my dad :-)

Work [at] Play here in Vancouver, BC. For those of you following my Twitter feed and/or my Facebook status, you might have noticed the bit about me now working at Work [at] Play Social Media Labs Vancouver. No, I didn't quit my job and find another one overnight, my company merely re-branded itself and has asked us all to promote it's new name with linkage and the like via Twitter etc. Frankly, while I see the reasoning behind it, I think the confusion generated around this whole tweet-everything strategy probably negates the majority of whatever buzz the brass hoped to produce. The site is cool though, and the new direction we're taking in the kind of stuff we're making is also cool. My new software project, Velocity is featured on the site's products page, and if you look carefully, you'll see the back of my fuzzy head there right in the middle.

Go-Go Carpet Cleaning also here in Vancouver is pretty damn cool. The whole business is one guy with a machine and he keeps pretty busy. He's friendly, professional and cheap ($70 for my whole apartment). I told him I'd post about him so here he is :-)

And that's it for me. I don't really like the whole idea of manipulating the linkage system with intentional links, but I like these people so I guess that's why it's ok in my head. Happy Friday!

August 12, 2008 21:06 +0200  |  PHP Programming Work [at] Play 1

I've been assigned to a junior-level programmer here at the office to teach her how to write code for the server I've been labouring on over the past six months. The system is my brainchild, my baby and it's with a mix of relief and aprehension that I'm taking on this new apprentice for this project.

And then I saw this at the top of her first class file:

<?php



	/**
	*
	*   Author: Coworker's Name (coworker@donatgroup.com)
	*  Licence: GPL-3 "Information wants to be free"

Granted, she forgot to capitalise "Free" but it's a pretty good start ;-)

June 27, 2008 09:52 +0200  |  CCTV Drupal Employment Family The Toronto Public Space Committee Work [at] Play 0

I'm trying to post more here lately as it would seem that since moving to Vancouver, my posts have been more and more sparsely scattered about the month. To that end, here's a quickie post regarding my relatively good day:

I had my review today. Good news: they like my work, and they're giving me a raise (w00t!) The only somewhat negative thing the boss mentioned was how I didn't know enough about Drupal yet. I can understand her position really, I mean, a large portion of our legacy code is in that horrible framework, so it only makes sense that as a senior developer, I know my way around it. I guess I'll just have to take a deep breath, bash my head in with a crowbar, and work from there. ^_^

Anyway, aside from the good review, I found a new sandwich shop in the area that serves giganimous sandwiches, and then discovered some left over birthday cake in the office fridge. This, coupled with the fact that I got a big chunk of work done today (and documented!) made me happy with my current form of employment.

I also fielded a 1hour call with a University student out of Windsor, Ontario to give him some background on the TPSC's CCTV campaign back when I was running the show. That was a bit of nostalgic fun -- kinda like talking to the press, but you can be a little more candid since you know that you're not talking to the uninformed public, but rather a well-read academic.

And then, to top it all off, I came home to a clean apartment AND new groceries in the fridge! Butthead had been hard at work and it showed. Having a roomate might not be so bad after all ;-) He's making a lot of progress with his own life lately though. I'm really quite proud of him.