Category Archives: conference

Let’s have a virtual Emacs conference in August – help me make it happen!

Why August? It’s an arbitrary target, although it tickles my brain to think about celebrating my 32nd birthday with awesome people sharing awesome ideas. (Incidentally, I’ll also reach the point of having been using Emacs for about half my life – doubly neat!)

Anyway. I think it would be great to have some kind of knowledge-swapping thing. Since I’m not particularly keen on travelling, not everyone can make it out to Canada, and it’s hard to make awesome in-person conference recordings anyway, maybe a virtual conference would be a great bet. I’m willing to spend what I would have paid for airfare on things like organization, speaker honoraria, and other good things.

I enjoyed the Emacs Conference in 2013, and I think we should figure out how to have these kinds of get-togethers more often. Emacs Chats and Emacs Hangouts are tiny steps in that direction, and I’d appreciate help in making this and many other community-ish things even better. =)

2015-02-02 Imagining an Emacs conference -- index card #emacs #conference #plans #organizing-people

2015-02-02 Imagining an Emacs conference – index card #emacs #conference #plans #organizing-people

So here’s what I imagine a virtual Emacs conference might be like. People volunteer, and somehow we organize a schedule of fascinating talks. This could be a full day, or maybe we’d spread it out over a couple of half-days (maybe even scheduled for different timezones so that everyone has something they can interact with life). We use Google Hangout on Air or a similar platform that can stream and automatically record. There’s the speaker with slides and screensharing, and there’s a moderator who can pick up questions from IRC and Google Hangout in order to ask them out loud. We might even be able to pull off panel discussions. Afterwards, there’s a playlist and a webpage with all the videos/MP3s/OGGs, and people can share their notes/discussions/follow-ups.

All this is immensely doable with the technology we have today. For free, even. Anyway, the technology should be okay.

What about topics? Here’s what I’m particularly curious about:

  • New features in Emacs 25 (and beyond)
  • Demos, workflows, and setup tips for popular toolsets/needs (ex: awesome setups for Clojure/CL, Rails, Javascript, C++, Java, writing, research)
  • Fascinating uses of Emacs
  • Good practices for Emacs Lisp: automated testing, performance, reliability, coding style/idioms (maybe even workshops along these lines)
  • Demystifying cool stuff: how core modules work, how to contribute to Emacs
  • A hackathon: get package.el headers on everything! fix bugs! make improvements! document!
  • Emacs microhabits, learning
  • Workshops: intermediate/advanced use of Org Mode, Calc, ESS, and other powerful packages
  • Emacs community-building and sharing

And people can suggest other topics, too. =) Maybe we can even figure out some kind of unconference setup: people suggesting topics they can share, quickly voting on what they’re interested in, and breaking up into separate “rooms” to share/discuss.

2015-02-02 Making a virtual Emacs conference happen -- index card #emacs #organizing-people #conference #planning #questions

2015-02-02 Making a virtual Emacs conference happen – index card #emacs #organizing-people #conference #planning #questions

An Emacs conference would be awesome. Here are my (pitiful) excuses for why I haven’t figured out how to organize one yet, and things I want to figure out (especially with people’s help):

  • Who might be interested in speaking? How does one go about organizing speakers, schedules, topics, tech, etc? I’m still slowly getting the hang of reaching out to people and inviting them to Emacs Chats.
  • Will people show up and ask questions? Part of me is worried that I’ll pick entirely the wrong date/time/topics and there’ll be awkward silence.
  • How can we handle questions? IRC, probably, so that people can chat about stuff too. I think I’m pretty comfortable at keeping an eye on stuff and repeating people’s questions. Or maybe people can join the Emacs Hangout if we can get the flow to be smooth?
  • Will the experience be pleasant and worthwhile? Maybe not as goosebump-inducingly awesome as being in a room with 80+ other Emacs geeks, but I think it will be worthwhile.
  • How can we harvest and share resources? Hangouts on Air will put videos on Youtube automatically, so that’ll be taken care of.
  • What would we need to do leading up to it? Something about a mailing list, and a webpage, and lots and lots of coordination.
  • Do I need to gain experience/confidence with smaller steps? Or maybe find some accomplices?

Of course, if someone wants to organize an in-person one, that’s cool too. Especially in Toronto. That would be awesome. =) (Although I might be able to get to New York or similar places too…)

My evil plans for a conference like this include:

  • Getting cool stuff out of people’s heads/fingers/configs and into a form that other people can look at, learn from, and link to
  • Ditto for good practices that can help us develop better code (performance)
  • Discovering resources and tips we might not have found out about otherwise
  • Sparking more conversations and follow-ups
  • Spurring people to create and share more resources

What could help the Emacs community learn even faster?

2015-02-01 Accelerating the Emacs community -- index card #accelerating #emacs

2015-02-01 Accelerating the Emacs community – index card #accelerating #emacs

How can we get more people sharing their configs, or learning from other people’s configs? How can we make it easier for people to share through blog posts, videos, animated GIFs, and presentations? How can we create spaces for people to connect, either with virtual meetups or in person? How can we swap interesting ideas, workflows, and mental habits? How can we improve our skills? How can we keep the conversation going?

Mm. Figuring out how to do virtual conferences might be a good start. Also, I’ve got this idea noodling around in my head on having some kind of an intermediate/advanced Org Mode workshop: something that covers clocking workflows, table calculations, literate programming, data analysis, publishing. Figuring out how to do virtual workshops would be awesome too.

Okay. First things first. Some kind of date and some kind of time, and some kind of help sorting out a schedule. August 8 and/or August 15, maybe? If librarians can hold an online conference through Google Hangouts, we should be able to figure this out too. (Librarians are super-cool!) If you have lots of experience in organizing virtual conferences or you have ideas for how to make this less intimidating for a non-organizer-y introvert, I’d love to hear from you in the comments or at [email protected]. Let’s make this happen!

Sketchnotes from WordCamp Developers Toronto 2012 Day 2 #wcto

From Wireframe to WordPress Theme in 10 Minutes – Sam Xu

20121104 WordCamp Toronto Developers - From Wireframe to WordPress Theme in 10 Minutes - Sam Xu

WordPress for a Large Site – Brandon Hill

20121104 WordCamp Toronto Developers - WordPress for a Large Site - Brandon Hill

Mobile Apps in WordPress Version 2.0 – Trevor Mills

20121104 WordCamp Toronto Developers - Mobile Apps in WordPress Version 2.0 - Trevor Mills

If you like this, check out the sketchnotes from Day 1 of WordCamp Developers Toronto 2012, or see my other sketchnotes! Search Twitter for #wcto to see what people have been saying about WordCamp Toronto, or check out the conference site for more updates and slide decks.

Sketchnotes: WordCamp Developers Toronto 2012 Day 1 (#wcto)

UPDATE 2012-12-10: Now with links to slides!

Quick notes from WordCamp Developers Toronto 2012 Day 1. Enjoy! Click on the images to view a larger version. Please feel free to share them! © 2012 Sacha Chua, Creative Commons Attribution Licence

Creating Your First Plugin the Easy Way, Christopher Ross

20121103 wordcamp toronto1


Intro to the Template Hierarchy, Al Davis

20121103 wordcamp toronto2


User Centricity in WordPress Design, Taylor Dewey

20121103 wordcamp toronto3


Panel: Building a WordPress Development Business – Shannon Smith, Tom Auger, Brent Kobayashi, Dale Mugford, Trevor Mills, Marko Heijnen

20121103 wordcamp toronto4

Unconference: Women in WordPress – Hosted by Shannon Smith

20121103 wordcamp toronto unconference women in wordpress

WP Theme Frameworks: Speed Up Your Development Process, Chad Mohr

20121103 wordcamp toronto5

If you like these, check out:

Sketchnotes: WordCamp Toronto 2012 (End users) – Day 1

Sketchnotes from WordCamp Toronto 2012 Day 2: Case studies

Click on the images for larger version. Please feel free to share these! You can credit it as © 2012 Sacha ChuaCreative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada.

Building Your Business on WordPress, Richard Martin

20120930 Wordcamp Toronto - Building Your Business on WordPress - Richard Martin

Malvern Red & Black Society, Shanta R. Nathwani

20120930 Wordcamp Toronto - Malvern Red and Black Society - Shanta Nathwani

WordPress of 1812, Digital Duncan

20120930 Wordcamp Toronto - WordPress of 1812 - Digital Duncan

Sketchnotes from WordCamp Toronto 2012 Day 1

Sign up for the mailing list at WordCamp Toronto 2012 to find out when the videos have been released, or keep an eye on!

Sketchnotes from WordCamp Toronto Day 1: Marketing, giving back, multilingual sites, security, SEO & analytics, e-commerce

Click on the images for larger version. Please feel free to share these! You can credit it as © 2012 Sacha Chua – Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada.

Integrating Digital Marketing Into Your WordPress, Austin Gunter

20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - Developing Digital Marketing into Your WordPress Site - Austin Gunter

Giving Back to WordPress, Mo Jangda

20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - Giving Back to WordPress - Mo Jangda

Options for a Multilingual Site, Shannon Smith

20120929 Wordcamp toronto - Options for a Multilingual Site - Shannon Smith

Securing WordPress, Victor Granic

20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - Securing WordPress - Victor Granic

Webmaster’s Toolkit: SEO & Web Analytics, Andy McIlwain

20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - SEO and Analytics - Andy McIlwain

e-Commerce & WordPress: Navigating the Minefield, Jonathan Davis

20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - WordPress and eCommerce - Jonathan Davis

WordCamp Toronto 2012 site, #wcto

Sketchnotes from WordCamp Toronto 2012 Day 2

Notes from the Quantified Self 2012 conference (Palo Alto)

See or search my sketchnotes from the event in Evernote

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I took copious notes at the Quantified Self meetup organizers’ workshop (

How I’m going to apply what I learned: We’re planning to organize pub nights after our meetups. If there’s local interest and I have time, we might offer coaching too. I’m also interested in prototyping a global directory for Quantified Self folks, and look into virtual meetups.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Opening plenary

  • Gary Wolf: Basic conference guidelines (start and end on time, must be a personal story, doesn’t have to be polished)
  • Ernesto Ramirez: > 70 meetups, > 10,000 members
  • David Maskin: Citizen science
  • Gary Wolf: Practice and mistakes, thinking, data all the way in
  • Robin Barooah: Coffee, meditation, learning from the data
  • Nancy Dougherty: Making smiles visible, triggering smiles

How I’m going to apply what I learned: The next time I track the beginning of a habit, I’ll also do the reverse habit tracking that Gary Wolf used, looking at # of days skipped and longest skip. I like the way of seeing the improvement in habit consistency over time.

10:30am Session 1

  • Dr. Alan Greene: reverse mood tracking – paying attention to the changes in his emotions in order to learn more about how his patients felt. Before going through a door, he pays attention to how he’s feeling. After he walks through it and meets people, he considers his emotions again, and then asks a probing question based on the change. He’s right about half the time.
  • Amy Robinson: tracking her ideas (she e-mails ideas and inspiration to herself) and graphing the connections between ideas using Gephi. She analyzed six months of e-mails and organized them by topic in order to see the interconnections. She would like to be able to visualize the gaps.
  • Sacha Chua: My session! See the slides, dashboard, and source. People told me that they found the load-balancing of clothes amusing, and they were glad I released my dashboard code as open source.
  • Mark Leavitt: quantifying seat time. He built a more ergonomic workstation (split keyboard) into a comfortable chair, then added a compact elliptical trainer that he wired up to an LED for feedback. (Maybe something like this InMotion elliptical trainer?) That way, he was motivated to keep pedaling while he was sitting at work. Key idea: If you can’t or don’t want to break a habit, hack it to be better for you.

How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’ve been moving more of my notes into Evernote, and when I reach 10,000 notes, I’ll look into doing that kind of visualization as well. I’m also curious about building a more associative notetaking system like Mark Carranza’s, and that might be good for mapping too. If I set up a more permanent home office, I might look into getting a small elliptical trainer as well.

12:00pm Lunch and Ignite talks

  • Jason Langheier: The power of routines; changing your defaults to be healthier; personalized meal recommendations using zipongo
  • Charles Wang: Lumoback for tracking posture
  • Dave Marvit: Helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) be able to drive again; GPS and stress map-based visualizations; meditation helps
  • Daniel Nofal: Wikilife – open data, open API, open source
  • Joshua Manley: Data-driven health coaching
  • David Fetherstonhaugh: Shirt- and Sharpie-based survey during a run; about ~50% filled out; measurement is a lousy invitation to engage; social effect
  • Greg Schwartz: Burned way more calories at Burning Man (daily rate: 3450-4300 normally, 4433-5764 at Burning Man); fire poi 13 cal/min

How I’m going to apply what I learned: Friends back home are into hula-hooping, so I might take up hooping and poi again as a form of fun exercise. I just have to figure out where this is going to happen, space-wise…

1:30pm Session 2

In the Habit Design (Michael Kim) breakout session, people shared their experiences on building habits that lasted for at least 100 days. The breakout organizer shared some research that was sceptical of the Hawthorne Effect. People talked about making sure they have their healthy defaults in stock, taking advantage of accountability (especially to people they didn’t know), increasing the cost of not doing something, checking in with friends, gamification, letting people hit the pause button, changing responses to habit triggers, and so on.

In the Reducing Friction in Quantified Self Technologies (Boby Sakaki, Phillip Thomas) breakout session, we talked about getting other people involved in hypothesis generation, helping them develop strategies for recovering from failure, and customizing the UI.

How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’ll brainstorm a list of habits I’d like to build, and then focus on building one habit at a time for 100 days. For the next 100 days, I’ll work on building more of a habit of exercise.

3:00pm Session 3

I went to the Crossing the Data Desert (Vahe Kassardjian, Rafi Haladjian) breakout session. The initial part of change and data collection is very interesting, but then there’s this long period of having answered the “obvious” questions before you can get (often surprising) value from long-term data. It’s a little like the plateau of mediocrity. We talked about the need for other people (especially physicians) to recognize and respond to data, the value of seeing other people succeed, “unlocking” new analyses or levelling up, and sharing other people’s questions/hypothesis in order to encourage people to look at their data in new ways.

How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’m curious about the ability to share questions/hypotheses and quickly analyze your own data in the light of new questions, and I might build it into some kind of directory/data analysis service.

4:30pm Closing Plenary

Sonny Vu, Amar Kendale: Sensors Sewn In: A Wearables Conversation. The panel was really light on specifics, so we’ll just have to see how the hardware turns out.

Larry Smarr: Frontiers of Self-Tracking. Hilarious and insightful talk about what happens when a scientist with access to a supercomputer and a research team starts digging into his own microbiome. Bonus 3D-printed model of the intestinal passage that’s been giving him problems.

How I’m going to apply what I’ve learned: Nothing much that I’m going to act on within the next year, but it’s good to know what’s out there.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

9:00am Opening Plenary

  • Nick Winter: Testing 11 factors in 3 months using an intervention schedule in order to tease out interactions; quantified-mind performance vs creatine, walking, piracetam, etc.
  • Adriana Lukas: Need for open & exportable data, data literacy
  • Daniel Rosenberg: History of timelines; Joseph Priestley’s 1765 Chart of Biography; patterns; historical and cultural assumptions about graphing; these graph types were radical inventions once!
  • Indhira Rojas: Interesting data visualization experiments; how can we look at things in a very different way? Typical reaction “I don’t understand it” / abstract art, but that’s normal

How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’ll use quantified-mind to establish a baseline and then experiment with some factors, and I’ll check out some of the experimental visualizations people shared.

10:30am Session 4

I went to the Best Practices in Data Viz (Lee Lukehart) breakout session. Resources for that session are at . We talked about tools for crunching and cleaning up data (ex: Data Wrangler), the kinds of transforms you might do with data, different types of charts, the power of small multiples, and other tips for data visualization.

How I’m going to apply what I learned: I want to build more graphs for Quantified Awesome, possibly with nvd3. I’m also looking forward to capturing more data streams so that I can ask other questions about my data.

12:00pm Ignite talks

  • Hind Hoboeika: Butterfleye heart rate monitoring for swimmers
  • Jan Peter Larsen: Automated activity tracking with the smartphone; change in behaviour
  • Natalie McKeever: Internal worlds art installation; entrainment of heart rate rhythms; other animal species’ slower heartbeat = relaxing
  • David Albert: Getting people engaged in their own health; measuring heart performance with an iPhone
  • Yasmin Lucero: Baby tracking, RPubs
  • Anne Wright: Data aggregation with Fluxtream and Bodytrack
  • Paul Abramson: MyDoctor (tracking-assisted healthcare); emerging “quant coach” role as part of healthcare team; visualizing and telling stories based on data

How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’m going to check out RPubs for other interesting visualizations. Also, it was reassuring to learn from the patterns that Yasmin observed!

1:30pm Session 5

At the A Memex for the Quantified Self (Betsy Masiello, Jess Hemerly) breakout session, we listed things we were currently recording and what we’d like to be able to record. I bumped into Mark Carranza, whose MX text-based associative memory system is pretty darn awesome. Many people are interested in more passively-tracked data as well as correlating their data with external sources of information. People were also interested in visualizing and navigating one’s records. Some things to consider: Fluxtream,, singly, Muse (Stanford), Nvivo (blog analysis), Proust, 1000memories, Storytree, Zoom Recorder.

How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’d like to eventually build a timeline view of the different things I track. I’m also really curious about Mark Carranza’s MX, and may build something like that myself.

3:00pm Session 6

I skipped the breakout sessions in favour of conversations with Mark Carranza about his MX and with Ian Li about building a Quantified Self directory. I did go to the Quantifying Personal Communications (Noah Zandan) office hours, although that turned out to be more of quantification-based presentation coaching. I had a good discussion with Dan Tasse about tracking and analyzing personal communication, though.

4:30pm Closing Plenary

Stan James showed the results of his hourly webcam+screenshot routine (LifeSliced), which was funny and an interesting productivity hack.

Kevin Kelly wrapped things up by talking about the explosion of data and how we might be able to turn that data into new senses that extend our selves. He also proposed that data should be treated like the alphabet – no one owns it, people have access to different forms of it, access comes with rights and responsibilities, and data goes back to the commons after some time.

How I’m going to apply what I learned: Nothing I’m planning to act on in the short term, although I suppose that opening as much of my data as possible is part of it. I thought about setting up a similar webcam+screenshot thing on my computer, but I don’t like low-angle, badly-lit shots. <laugh> So maybe it will be something else.

See or search my sketchnotes from the event in Evernote

Went to the conference? I’d love to read your notes! Tweet them with the #qs2012 hashtag or comment with a link below!