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Usability Camp

Posted: - Modified: | toronto

When Mira Jelic and Jyotika Malhotra told me about UsabilityCamp, I immediately signed up. Good thing I did, too. The event filled up quickly and more than a hundred people were on the waiting list. If last Tuesday is anything to go by, the next UsabilityCamp will probably fill up in a few hours! <laugh>

It was great crossing over into a different world and learning more
from user experience designers who focus more on user interactions
instead of code. My favorite presentation? I can’t decide between Ilona Posner’s demonstration of these very cool immersive devices that let kids (and adults!) experience what it’s like to be a cat, frog, or butterfly, or Michelle Ivankalc(sp?)’s talk about the physical design of objects.

I really enjoyed getting to know a bunch of new people, too. I met
Paul Forest, who’s on the steering committee
of the International Game Developers’ Association (Toronto Chapter).
He’s looking for a development job, and has experience in everything
from C++ to Java to .NET. Richard McCann
asked me about technology evangelism when he noticed it on my nametag,
and we ended up talking about his newly-fored company called
IdeaFarmer. I met Veau Trotter for the second
time (first was at Enterprise2.0Camp). I met Daniel Tsang again, too, and we chatted a bit about FreshBooks, a web-based accounts receivables system. He told me about monkeyonyourback, which I should definitely look for. I also got to know Robin Ward, and we got into an animated discussion of extensible software (Emacs for me, Firefox for him). I should ask him about the Firefox extensions he wrote…

I was particularly glad to have an opportunity to chat with Mira Jelic and Jyotika Malhotra, both of whom are very cool people (in both tech *and* style!). Kudos to them for organizing a great event, kudos to Ilona Posner for pulling in more sponsors and speakers, and kudos to everyone for making the event tons of fun!

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Random Emacs symbol: gnus-summary-pop-article – Command: Pop one article off the history and go to the previous.

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Free Software and Open Source Symposium, Toronto, Oct 26-27

| event, free and open source, toronto

Via Kelly Drahzal: there’ll be a Free Software and Open Source Symposium in Toronto from Oct 26 to 27. Admission for full-time students to the symposium is just CAD 10.00! I will so be there, if only to hang out.

The workshops look like mainly intro courses, which isn’t bad. I’d
like to see more people get into development. I wanted to get into the
workshop for educators because I want to convince everyone that open
source development really should be part of all computing students’
experience. I can get quite passionate about that! The workshop seems
to be full, though, so I may need to talk my way in.

Coming? =)

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Of BarCamp and conversations

| barcamp, toronto

People who have never been to a BarCamp
probably have no idea what to expect from this un-conference. In fact,
I get the feeling that the BarCamp *I* go to is very different
from the BarCamp that everyone else goes to, even if we’re all going to BarCampEarthToronto.

I think my way is cool, and I think you should try it out. =) Here’s
what I get out of BarCamp and why I think it’s tons of fun.

For me, BarCamp is all about conversation. I start with the
assumption that as a whole, everyone else knows more than I do about
anything I want to talk about. My sessions are not presentations, but
roundtable discussions. I’ll structure them a little bit to give
people something to work with, like the way I talked a little bit
about Enterprise 2.0 or shared some of my networking tips. The value
of the session doesn’t come from me, though, but from the
participants.

My job is not to tell people answers, but to share a few stories and
ask lots of questions. I turn Q & A onto its head by saving more time
for questions than for speaking, and asking more questions than I
answer.

This also allows me to adapt to people’s interests on the fly. In the
middle of hallway conversation, I’ve said, “Hey, I’d love to have a
larger conversation about this,” run off to find a marker, and then
added the session to the grid. I think it’s okay not to be an expert
on something just yet, to not have a slick well-rehearsed
presentation.

I think this is so much more fun than treating BarCamp as a
self-organizing series of traditional presentations. I’d rather say,
“I feel like talking about ____” and see who else wants to.

Conversation. For me, BarCamp is all about starting
conversations. It’s fun following up with people, too. Just finished a
BBQ with a few people I met at BarCampEarthToronto – that was
great fun!

I’ll blog about this more when I’m more coherent, but yeah. Conversation.

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Industry showcase at U of T

| toronto

Via Greg Wilson: Check out the computer industry showcase at the University of Toronto from 4 – 6 PM on Tuesday, September 5. Confirmed attendees:

I’m looking forward to the showcase and to the pub night afterwards!

If you want your company to be part of the event, you might be able to
get in touch with Greg Wilson through his blog.

By the way, gotta love the tagline for Greg’s blog: “Data is zeroes and
ones — software is zeroes and ones and hard work.”

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Living with others and living alone

| life, toronto

The residence assistant introduced himself to me and explained that my
roommate Kristin would be moving to another room for a day, just to
try it out. I guess this was related to the tense discussion I’d
walked in on last Friday. She and my other roommate, Krystal, were
having a hard time dealing with those little issues that come up when
you share space with near-strangers. It’s Kristin’s first time living
with others, and there are lots of things to which we all need to
adjust.

People find it strange that I don’t mind sharing a *room* with another
person. I have to explain to them that when I lived in residence in
college, I shared a room with three other people (an actual room, mind
you). Even after I graduated from college and stayed at an
apartment-style dorm near school, I shared a room with another person.

I’ve never lived alone. I’ve never chosen furniture, except for two
bean-bag chairs at the apartment-style dorm near school. I’ve never
chosen paint colors or light fixtures (okay, maybe a desk lamp).

I’ve never had my own place. I’m looking forward to one!

I’d like to try living on my own: not just renting a room in a shared
house, but having an apartment all to myself. I’ve thought about
whether that makes sense financially, knowing that I should save
earlier instead of later because of the power of compound interest and
money might be a bit tight if I’m just starting out. Even though it
makes more financial sense for me to find roommates and go for the
cheap rent when I’m starting out, I think I’d like to try living on my
own.

This adventure would also help me figure out what I like and don’t
like about places, which is even more important when it comes to
deciding where and how I’m going to live. =)

So—I won’t move out of Graduate House yet (I like the amenities and
the company!), but I plan to move into a bachelor’s or 1-bedroom
apartment when I start working.

An unfurnished apartment would give me the most flexibility. I can see
how I’d gradually scale up in terms of furniture. Asian style might
help me here: I can sleep on a futon and entertain on cushions spread
around a low mat.

Here’s what I want:

  • Accessible by transit: I’ll probably never live anywhere that requires driving. I enjoy having people over too much to limit myself to people who have a car. 24-hour transit would be even better so that I don’t need to worry about how late my parties run. It needs to be close enough for people to not mind coming over after work.
  • A large kitchen that connects to the living room: I prefer entertaining at home over going out. If the kitchen is far from the living/dining room, then I might not see my guests during parties until halfway through! Not fun. I’d rather have an open layout and a large kitchen so that when guests come over and help me cook, we have enough space to do that. I loved how people helped me out with my birthday party: mixing the brownies, cooking porridge, chopping fruits… Yup, definitely must have a large kitchen and a pleasant living room.
  • Big windows: I love natural light, and would like to have windows with a view of either leafy trees or the cityscape. I would particularly enjoy having a large window in my bedroom facing north or south (or east, if necessary; just not west) so that the morning sun can help me wake up. I’d hate to have to use curtains or shades on this window, though. My Graduate House window opens onto the courtyard, which is why I have to keep the shades closed or people can see straight into my room. Not fun.
  • Warm colors: I love rich, warm colors. Red, orange, brown, things like that.
  • Temperature control: I want to be able to choose a comfortable temperature and maintain that throughout the year.
  • Shower essential, bath not quite necessary: North American baths are nothing compared to a proper Japanese bath, to which I will treat myself someday. I want one of those deep sitting baths – maybe even the one with a wooden barrel? I think the Japanese way of doing baths is The Right Way: take a shower *outside* the bath, soak, and then rinse off outside it. I suppose it only makes sense if one shares the bath with other people afterwards, though, so it’s not a feature I’m looking for now.
  • Double sink, preferably triple sink: I don’t mind washing dishes. In fact, I probably wouldn’t use a dishwasher that often. On the other hand, a double sink is incredibly useful.
  • High-speed Internet: ’nuff said. Wireless, preferably. I can set this up easily.
  • Cellphone signal: ’nuff said.
  • Near laundromat: I handwash most of my clothes, so it might not be worth it for me to keep a washing machine if I’m just going to use it for sheets, towels, and the occasional sturdy item.
  • Near restaurants, preferably open late at night: For those days when I don’t feel like cooking, or for lunch parties that stretch out into dinner.
  • Near public library: Nice to have. I can walk or take transit, though.
  • Garden not necessary: I suck at keeping plants, and I don’t particularly feel the urge to have a yard.
  • Not a basement: I am not a basement person. See need for windows.
  • High-rise, probably, although low-rise also okay: Because a bachelor pad probably won’t be cost-effective otherwise.

I haven’t decided between a bachelor pad or a one-bedroom apartment
yet. I can use a folding screen to hide my bed if I go for a bachelor
pad. I don’t need a really fancy place to sleep.

This probably also means I should consider working for somewhere
downtown, because I like living downtown.

Hmm. =)

Plans, plans… Maybe sometime April, if I get my work thing sorted
out? I can do Massachusetts, I suppose, although Manila would probably
be a better alternative…

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DemoCamp!

| barcamp, democamp, toronto

I love going to conferences and geek get-togethers because I always end up having the most interesting conversations. Even though my responsibilities at Toast I.T. Toastmasters meant that all I caught of DemoCampToronto8 was just David Crow ending it with, “That wraps up DemoCamp for the night,” it was so worth the mad scramble across town.

Here’s an incomplete list of highlights from DemoCamp:

  • Ari Caylakyan came along from Toast I.T. Toastmasters in order to see the geek events I go to.
  • Chatted with Olivier Yip Tong on the way in.
  • Carsten Knoch gave me the July 1 issue of the Guardian UK
    that I’d blogged about. A journalist interviewed a bunch of
    UK-based IBM bloggers and the IBMers mentioned me as an example of
    a blogging student, and the article came out online on July 1. I
    met Carsten at Enterprise 2.0 Camp on 2006.07.20, and he went back
    and read my blog. (Awwwwww!) When he read my entry about the
    Guardian, he realized that he had that issue and that it was
    sitting in his recycling bin. What an amazing coincidence! I’ll
    read through the entire thing later to see if I made it into print.
    If so, them my mom will be ridiculously happy to receive a paper
    copy of it for her scrapbook. =) Even if the article isn’t there –
    isn’t that just a nifty thing?
  • Jane Zhang made me promise to blog
    the Social Tech Brewing event this August. The event’s about women
    in technology, and it looks like it will be a very interesting
    discussion.
  • I apologized profusely to Greg Wilson for not following up
    on the introduction to Steve Easterbrook, who teaches a
    course that I absolutely must take next semester and who is
    interested in the social side of software engineering. Greg invited
    me to another meeting at 9:45 AM at the Starbucks at College and
    St. George. (Update: I was unavoidably late and ended up at the
    Starbucks at 10:00 instead of 9:45. Didn’t meet them. Argh! Now I
    look terrible. I hate being late!)
  • Hypothesis: Following Greg Wilson around leads to
    conversations with interesting people. Data point: Hugh Ranalli. I overheard Hugh talking to Greg about computer training in developing countries, so naturally I stepped right into the conversation. (Greg told me to be nice and share! ;) ) Hugh’s working with Digital Opportunity Trust on skill-oriented training (as opposed to tech-oriented; teaching presentation skills instead of Microsoft Powerpoint), and I think that’s just what is needed. I’m curious about the Teach Up, Skill Up, and Scale Up programs he described for teachers, at-risk youth, and entrepreneurs.
  • James Woods had a haircut, which is probably one of the reasons why I didn’t remember his name, but still… He remembered mine and he makes an effort to be good with names, but was good-natured enough to forgive my lapse. =) He told me how he scheduled himself onto a yet-unplanned DemoCamp just to make sure he’d get a slot, and of David Crow‘s funny reaction to that.
  • James Woods introduced me to Vlad Jebelev, who used to be a Toastmaster when he lived in Missassauga. His wife was one of the club founders for a bank-based club.
  • Jeremy talked to me about his work in scientific visualizations – mainly physics and chemistry. His wife’s doing her PhD in biotechnology, so he’s getting interested in that as well.
  • With a little more time this DemoCamp, I got to know Ian Irving through more than just his blog title. “Hi, I’m Ian Irving of falsepositives” wasn’t much to go on last time, especially as I didn’t feel like opening my computer then and there! ;) I noticed the Lotus Notes thing on his business card and we talked a bit about that. Then we ended up in a longer conversation about how to keep track of lots of blogs and the strategies we use, like following influencers, analyzing OPML… Ian has some pretty interesting OPML analysis tools that he should share. =) It would be good to see the intersection of blog subscriptions between your friends, for example… He’s thought a lot about this attention economy, and has come up with a few things to make it personally better.
  • Finally got to connect with Rick Mason. He had stumbled across my entry on networking with Moleskine notebooks. We nearly met at the Flash event on 2006.06.29, but for some reason or another he didn’t make it to that one. We were supposed to meet last week for coffee, but our schedules got full. DemoCamp did the trick!
  • It was good to see Rock Jethwa at DemoCamp. I met him at the TorCHI social the night before and thought he might enjoy the DemoCamp scene. He probably heard about it from other people, too. =)
  • Rock Jethwa introduced me to Goran Matic, who’s also really enthusiastic about storytelling and social computing. Awesome!
  • Simon Rowland actually managed to make it out to one of the DemoCamp parties! =)
  • Andrew Burke joked about his resemblance to Simon Rowland. I laughed and said I’d probably be able to tell them apart by now, all things considered. Andrew and I chatted about Emacs. He said that geek get-togethers in California tend to be Emacs-dominated, while Toronto’s more of a vi city than anything else. I really should have a dinner party just for Emacs geeks.
  • Joey de Villa talked about his recent experiences with AdSense and how Randy of KBCafe is making quite a living off targeted blogs.
  • Brent Ashley collected his requisite two hugs: one coming in, one going. <laugh>
  • Gabriel Mansour and Simon Rowland started talking about Asterisk. Gabriel mentioned the Asterisk + Drupal module. Simon laughed and told him the history of that particular piece – his company developed it. <grin> That was cute!
  • Jedediah Smith suggested that I introduce him as a former mustard factory safety inspector if Web advertising is considered evil.
  • Alan Hietala promised to check out Toastmasters. He’ll be graduating within a few weeks and is looking for a programming/software development job that can take advantage of his interests in visualization and other deep hacking stuff. He’s interested in doing software architecture eventually.
  • Apricots and a kooshy ball!

A very good evening indeed.

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Doors Open

| toronto

I wandered into three buildings featured in Toronto’s “Doors Open”
weekend. Beautiful, beautiful architecture and interesting stories. =)
I particularly liked the stained glass windows and the huge libraries,
although the captions in the military exhibits were also strangely
amusing…

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Random Japanese sentence: 小雨のときは、傘は役に立つが、土砂降りのときは、ほとんど役に立たない。 An umbrella is useful in a mild rain, but when it rains cats and dogs an umbrella is of little help.

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