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Democamp a blast! Blew their brains to bits

I set out to geek the heck out of Toronto’s hippest geeks, and I did.
I showed them Emacs as they’d never seen it before—and even that was
a tiny fraction of my config. Lots of cool stuff behind the scenes,
too. When I showed them M-x doctor (the Emacs psychotherapist),
someone shouted out, “Is Emacs talking to you?” I laughed and
continued. What I *really* should’ve done was break the sequence of my
presentation, hook up the speakers, and tell them about Emacspeak -
presentation sequence be darned. ;) Oh, if they only knew how easy it
was to make jokes reality under Emacs! I remember writing my ‘bot
implants’ – the hippie-expand code I used to answer questions really
really quickly on IRC…

Anyway. That was FUN. And it was relatively easy to get through,
especially with the cue system I made (Emacspeak rocks!). I’ll talk
about that some other time. It’s a really cool hack and well worth exploring.

SO. The democamp.ca folks will eventually get
around to posting a vidcast. In the meantime, I have a 431MB MPEG
movie that I need to either downsample or cut up in order to put
online, maybe on YouTube. I don’t have
enough memory or hard disk space to play around with this (have you
seen my computer?!), but I’ll happily put the video up if we can
figure out how to go about doing that.

If you enjoyed the talk, missed it, or just want to hear/see me bounce
up and down about Emacs some more, come to the Linux Caffe
on Saturday (Oct 28, 2006) from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. I’ll be there,
and we might even see about having some kind of mini-show / vidcast. I wonder if
David has a projector. =)

That was fun! Can’t wait to do it again!

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Random Emacs symbol: comint-input-sender-no-newline – Variable: Non-nil directs the `comint-input-sender’ function not to send a newline.

Not among strangers

It’s amazing, looking out over a crowd of some 70 people and realizing
that very few of them are strangers. It was my first
DemoCamp presentation. I
jumped at the opportunity to wear my beautiful white suit (I *love*
that outfit!), but neither the suit nor the stage (MaRS is big!)
imposed any distance whatsoever. It felt as if I was sitting around a
table with good friends who indulged me by listening to an
enthusiastic demonstration of my latest cool hacks.

It helped that there was a low table that I could put my computer on
so that I could do my demo without hiding behind the podium. (I hate
podiums and other things that stand between me and the rest of the
people!) The microphones were good, too. I left the podium microphones
in place, and my natural presenting voice was strong enough to get
picked up without effort. And of course, a warmed-up sympathetic crowd
was just *wonderful* to work with… =)

I can’t wait to work on a few more things. A lower voice might be
easier to listen to, as long as I can still keep my warmth and humour.
A slightly higher table would’ve been nice. More structure for the
hacks, maybe a clearer message? But it was a fun presentation, and I’m
glad I got the chance to show people something crazy and fun.

I’d like to refine this presentation even further. I have an important
message I want to share with as many geeks as possible. I want people
to push the boundaries, to imagine what’s possible when software can
be customized to that extent. Maybe the benefits will trickle down to
everyone else, the way wild ideas in research prototypes can be taken
into the mainstream…

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Random Emacs symbol: emerge-revisions-with-ancestor – Command: Emerge two RCS revisions of a file, with another revision as ancestor.

mencoder rocks for editing movies

I used my Sony Cybershot digital camera to take a video of my
presentation at Democamp
last night. The file weighed in at 400+ MB! After a bit of trial and
error, I figured out how to use mencoder to crop to just me bouncing
up and down and talking excitedly about Emacs. =) Here’s the
incantation I’m currently using:

mencoder -ss 111 -vf crop=275:300 mov07578.mpg \
         -of mpeg -oac mp3lame -ovc lavc -o emacs.mpg

I might need to tweak it a bit more. Still, mencoder is fun!

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Random Emacs symbol: w3m-w3m-retrieve – Function: Retrieve web contents pointed to by URL using the external w3m command.

Why DemoCamp is one of my favorite networking events

I love DemoCamp and the whole BarCampToronto scene. I’ve made all sorts of incredible connections there. Let me tell you a story from just this Monday’s DemoCamp17, and you’ll see why.

It was towards the end of the DemoCamp pub night, past the bar’s closing time. I headed over to say hi to Kaleem Khan, whom I hadn’t talked with that evening. He was talking to a woman I didn’t recognize, so I introduced myself and asked whether she had been to DemoCamp before. She introduced herself as Alex and said that this was her first DemoCamp and that her friend had told her about it. Kaleem joked that clearly nobody had told Alex that it would be a conference full of geeks. Alex laughed and said that she works with scientists, so geeks were extroverts in comparison. When she mentioned scientists, I perked up and told her that there was someone she really needed to met. I headed across the room and found Jamie McQuay chatting with a few other people. At the first break in the conversation, I kidnapped Jamie and steered him across the room to where Alex was sitting. I mentioned that Jamie was helping organize a SciBarCamp (an unconference for scientist-types), and I told Jamie about how the topic of scientists had come up. Jamie and Alex started chatting, and the next time I checked in on them, I heard Alex invite Jamie to get in touch with her to see if her organization might be interested in sponsoring SciBarCamp. How cool was that?

That’s a terrific example of the kind of connections I love making. By keeping my ears open, I can come across all these opportunities to connect the dots. If I know what people are interested in or are looking for, then I can connect them with the peolpe, ideas, or tools they need in order to make things happen.

DemoCamp has been a consistently fantastic place for me to make those connections. Why? I think it’s because of these reasons:

People who go to DemoCamp are interesting. They’re independent consultants, startup founders, and even the occasional big-company anomaly like me. They’ve all got something interesting about them, and they make it easy to find out what that interesting thing is.

The demos and Ignite presentations are a terrific way to get the conversation started. High-energy, eye-opening demos put everyone in an optimistic and open mood, and do away with all the small talk about the weather. My favorite opener is, “So, which of the demos and Ignite presentations did you like the most?” From there, I can find out more about why people found them interesting and what else they’re into. Plus, I can carry their compliments back to the speakers for extra karma points!

I know or know of enough people to get network effects. I’ve reached the tipping point. I get economies of scale. When I meet new people, I can usually think of people they should get to know. If I don’t know someone, I know the other connectors can help me find that person – and then I’ll know them too. I’m on hugging terms with many DemoCamp regulars, and I feel warm and fuzzy about people there because I’ve gotten to know and admire them through their blog entries, presentations, comments, and e-mail.

How can I connect even better at DemoCamp?

  • Follow up: I need to ensure I have nothing scheduled for the evening after DemoCamp, or at the very least, I should have a quick e-mail ping ready to go as soon as I get home. BBDB was the best way for me to do that because I could keep notes on people and tie that into e-mail, so I might switch back to doing my mail in Gnus, even though Gmail has been really good to me!
  • Give out business cards: This is mainly to increase the chance of follow up. I usually take the responsibility of e-mailing people, but it’s better if they also have something physical that reminds them of our conversation. I used to print my own double-sided business cards, but my current printer can’t handle the fine-cut business card templates. This is definitely worth getting a better printer. (Preferably one that can also do index cards.)
  • Do another presentation: Hands-down, the best way to network at these events. People still remember the DemoCamp10 presentation I gave on Livin’ la Vida Emacs. I’d love to prepare an Ignite presentation on networking at DemoCamp, and turn that into something that we can share on the DemoCamp signup page so that newbies can make the most of the experience.

How about you? Been to DemoCamp? What do you think?

Visual notes – Gary Vaynerchuk and Democamp Toronto 24

Funny aside: When Jay Goldman handed Gary Vaynerchuk a bottle of water, Gary offered it for sale. Little things like that reinforce story.

Key take-aways: Passion and patience are everything. Hustle. Out-care others. Offer good stuff. Pay attention to everything. How do you scale? By trying.

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Notes from the demos and the pub, before I broke my fountain pen:

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Explanations for scribbles upon request, or when I can make time for it! =)

Sketchnotes from Democamp Toronto 29, June 2011

UPDATE: 2011-06-10: Made demo notes more visual. =)image

Highlights from Social Leverage talk by Howard Lindzon. Keep an eye on the sentiment for your industry, figure out where there’s momentum, build domain expertise, and get in the game.

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500px, TitanFile, High Schore House, Vizualize.me, We are TO Tech, Alphaslides. (Click for bigger version.) I liked High Score House’s demo the best. They’d obviously tested a lot and had fun along the way. =)

Sketched with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my Lenovo X61T. Sketchbook is my new favourite note-taking program. Even though it doesn’t have Microsoft Onenote’s handwriting recognition and search capabilities, it encourages me to draw more compactly and to use more colours, and it’s more reliable. See other sketchnotes if you want to explore!

(Update: @truejebus says TitanFile is hosted in Canada.)

What did you think about Democamp Toronto? Have you blogged about it? Please share your thoughts and links in comments!

Also check out Tom Purves’ writeup.