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Archive for the ‘internet + social media’ Category

Edmonton Startup Weekend 2

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Edmonton Startup Weekend, Team Victory Group ShotThis past weekend I participated in the second Startup Weekend Edmonton event. The previous Startup Weekend took place last June, which I was unable to participate in because I was in a friend’s wedding party, so I’ve been looking forward to the second one. The weekend did not disappoint: what a fantastic experience all around!

Over 50 people attended the event and helped build projects on seven different teams ranging in size and scope from a two people team to the supersized thirteen member team I was on. We had 54 hours to build a prototype, then all met up at Original Joe’s Varsity on Sunday night to demo our work for the rest of the groups and the extended community.

For those who aren’t familiar with Startup Weekend, here’s how it works:

  • Friday Night: Register, pitch ideas, form teams, make a plan.
  • Saturday: Get up early and code, code, code all day long, from morning to late night. Then, after you can’t bear to stare at a computer screen any longer, go for beer until the wee hours of the morning.
  • Sunday: Get up early again. Panic: not enough hours! Code and commit changes like a fiend. Then celebrate your new prototype by demoing and drinking more beer in the evening.

My team (Team Victory) came out of two idea pitches that merged into one.

The first idea was to create a social interface that would let you rate developers you’ve worked with on different skill sets, allowing you to recommend them and indicate whether you’d like to work with them again. Sort of a reputation system for IT people.

The second idea was to create a system that let you post your development project and tag it with locations and technologies to let other devs and designers see what projects are happening based on certain tags: for instance, someone involved with Edmonton’s Ruby meetup group would be able to quickly search for ongoing projects in Edmonton tagged with Ruby.

So what did we build? Something that does both! The idea behind LaunchWith.Me is to provide developers, designers and other tech-folk with a place they can show who they’ve worked with, who they love to work with, and what projects they’ve worked on. The current prototype interface isn’t complete but the underlying API is incredibly robust for something built in 54 hours. A lot of the data isn’t yet exposed because we ran out of time, but the core is there. If you’re browsing around the demo we have up keep in mind the data you see is all test data and you can’t actually create an account at this point.

I had a great time, and I learned tons. I’m a designer, BA and PM, but one of the things I loved the most about this weekend was sitting in the midst of a development space: I love to soak up information and learn new things, and boy did I ever learn a lot just by listening to the conversations happening around me. I also had the chance to dive into CSS3 for the first time, and I love how fast you can prototype things without spending hours fiddling in Photoshop.

I’d also like to give a big shout-out to Team Victory: you were a standout group to work with. I got the chance to work with some long-time friends and new people who have now become new friends. The network of amazing, brilliant people Edmonton events like DemoCamp exposes is one of the Edmonton tech community’s biggest success stories. As always, I look forward to the next event.

And if you’re wondering whether or not LaunchWith.Me will keep going, the answer from our team seems to be a resounding yes. So stay tuned for more from Team Victory and LaunchWith.Me! In the meantime, check out Mack’s Startup Weekend Flickr set and catch up with the #SWEdmonton Twitter hashtag.

Read other recaps of Startup Weekend Edmonton:

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Open Letter: The Importance of Capitalization

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Dear People of the Internet:

I know it’s hip and cool right now to use all lowercase letters in your brand names, menus and whatnot. Heck, I do it too — just look up at my header and you’ll note a lack of proper case.


This does not mean you should completely abandon reason in your quest to appear youthful and edgy. Capitalization serves a legitimate purpose in the English language: it helps us decipher proper nouns and names from other words, especially when a word could be either. On the internet correct case performs an even more important task: proper use of capital letters helps us scan content quickly. Capitalization often indicates important keywords like place and name. It also helps us quickly identify and digest those clever informational chunks known as “sentences”. Without capital letters, periods get easily lost and sentences blur together visually, making it difficult and frustrating to read quickly.

Blog post titles and any website body content that is longer than six or seven words should always use proper case. At least, they always should if you’d actually like people to read the stuff you’ve written. Branding is great, but when it gets in the way of what you’re trying to say you’re probably doing it wrong.

Missing those capital letters,


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Photoshopping & Body Image on SheThought.com

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

SheThought Banner

SheThought, a blog for, by and about women and critical thinking, is fast becoming one of my most favourite places on the Internet. The contributors include a variety of people from different backgrounds from science to arts and varying exposure to the online or offline feminist movement. The one thing they all share is a desire to think rationally, to be thoughtful about issues and ideas, and to embrace open discussion and civil, constructive conversation.

Recently, contributor Ben Radford had some thoughts on the reactions to a poll on girls and what they think about Photoshop and fashion photography. I had time to participate and ask questions in comments — which is not something I usually do — and though I haven’t had the opportunity yet to look up some of the studies he pointed me to, it’s on my To-Do list.

The idea that being surrounded by images of unrealistic female bodies has impacted the female gender’s collective cultural body image is one of those things that everybody “knows” in the same way that everybody “knows” images — especially fashion and celebrity photos — are heavily altered and Photoshopped, but where did these ideas come from? Is there valid data to support these “known” facts? This is a legitimate question I hadn’t spent much time thinking about: I assumed somewhere, someone had done the legwork and filed it away as fact before disseminating it to the masses. As I become increasingly interested in the skeptical movement I’m discovering this isn’t always true. I’m still learning what differentiates a good, scientific study from a less solid one so I can be better equipped to spot faulty methodologies that lead to incorrect assumptions. The last thing women need is to put our efforts into fighting the wrong battles, and if this is potentially one of them I think it’s valid to look critically at.

Having said that, I still think there is value for everyone in our culture in seeing a broader representation of body type and beauty in all media, from fashion magazine to movies to television. I have no studies of my own to back up that thought, only the anecdotal knowledge that TV characters like Criminal Minds’ Penelope Garcia who illustrate happiness in life and love isn’t dependant on your waist size can be important cultural role models that we can use more of. And while I’ve always thought the fashion industry gets too much blame when it comes to body image issues, I also believe there’s no downside in people of all shapes, sizes and colours seeing themselves represented there more often. If fashion is art, then the bodies that wear it are canvases, so why stick to a one-size mentality? Wall art comes in sizes that vary from hand-held to house-sized, so why can’t haute couture?

I definitely recommend adding SheThought to your reading list: there hasn’t been a post yet I haven’t found interesting, and while I have focused here on a feminism-related article, I love that this is a place for women to speak and be heard on topics that aren’t necessarily “women’s issues”. It’s a place for and about women, but it’s not all “about women”. Women think and have opinions about everything from science to politics to comedy, and not all of our online spaces have to be about the experience of being a woman all the time.

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Linkspam: Women, Skepticism and SEO

Monday, August 9th, 2010

I read and get linked to a ton of interesting blog posts every week, and as much as I would like to post commentary about most of them there just isn’t enough time in the day. I often share some of these links on Twitter and Facebook, but I’m going to start posting a list of my most interesting recent reads here on Mondays as a way of sharing online articles with a little more context.

Feminism & Women:


Science & Skepticism:
  • Coca-Cola is being sued because their vitamin water products make unwarranted health claims, but the best bit is their defense, which is to say that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage”. Basically their defense boils down to “yes we said it was healthy, but everyone knows that’s not true so we’re fine”. Um… *headdesk*
  • Myths about the “love hormone” oxytocin and the way conservatives are twisting slective bits of science to shore up abstinence-only sex education, slut shaming, monogamy and a lack of family planning. This is a link-rich resource that I have read through but haven’t clicked-through yet. It seems well-researched and comprehensive, and the article itself is very interesting.


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Girl Geek Dinners Officially Arrive in Edmonton

Friday, June 11th, 2010

First Edmonton Girl Geek Dinner attendeesLast night I attended the inaugural Edmonton Girl Geek Dinner, organized by the well-known Brittney Le Blanc from iNews880 and local Out Inc marketing mistress Shauna McConechy.

Girl Geek Dinners started in 2005 in England when its founder Sarah Blow had enough of attending technical events where she was among one of the only female attendees and frustrated by stereotypes that assumed she was only knowledgable about marketing and branding. She knew there were other women out there working and geeking out over technology, so she brought them together and started Girl Geek Dinners as a way of creating a female-centric community to connect tech women over good food and incredibly nerdy conversations of all kinds and colours.

Girl Geek Dinners have spread around the world in the last few years, and now — thanks to Brittney and Shauna — they’ve officially come to Edmonton.

There were a limited run of tickets to the first dinner; I was fortunate enough to snap one up the day they were announced, and have been looking forward to the event since then. The fist series of 20 tickets sold out so fast (four hours!) that an additional 10 were added, and those sold out within only a couple of days. It was fantastic to see so much immediate interest in the event right off the get-go! A couple of geek men were also in attendance, but the majority of us were women in technology and science. (Men must be invited by an attending woman, and women may invite only one man in order to keep the ratio to at least 50/50: this is, after all, a female meetup above and beyond anything else.)

First order of the night was a round of introductions that included each person providing their background, occupation and “geek credentials”, and it was a great ice breaker to come out of the geek closet and discover so many women with shared and similar interests from gadgets and gaming to role playing and crafting.

Shauna and Brittney gave a brief talk about their vision for Girl Geek Dinners in Edmonton that will include speakers, community blogging and event nights. One of the things they’re keen to do that struck me as particularly awesome is organize a dinner to connect women in tech with high school girls in Edmonton to help spread the word and encourage more females to pursue technology, math and science programs and careers. The more of us there are, the better off all of us are: there are still a lot of stereotypes and artificial, cultural barriers that discourage girls and young women from entering the industry, and I can’t think of a better way to encourage them than to get them hanging out with a group of successful tech women in their community. I definitely hope to be able to attend that dinner!

After there were door prizes (I won a free ticket to the next Girl Geek Dinner in July at Lux Steakhouse! Awesome!) and much mingling. It was a fantastic night, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the range of people who were there, particularly when it came to spanning age demographics. As a twenty-something geek, it was very cool to meet and chat with other geek generations!

Big thanks to Ceili’s Irish Pub and Restaurant who hosted and sponsored the event, providing one free drink per head and free appetizer plates. Ceili’s has a reputation in Edmonton for being good to the Twitter community, and the service was excellent!

Keep up with the latest from YEGGirlGeek Dinners by following their Twitter feed or subscribing to their official blog. Hope to see you out at the next dinner in July!

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