{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

Posts Tagged ‘edmonton’

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:

Leave a Comment (5) »

Open Letter to White Edmonton About White Privilege

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Dear White Edmontonians,

I am dismayed and disappointed by the overwhelmingly negative response to the Racisim Free Edmonton Campaign, most of which seems to be coming from white Edmontonians. That’s the first indication we have a problem.

Just to be clear, I’m talking to white folk in Edmonton in this post, as a white person who has in recent years started to come to terms with her own internalized racism and white privilege. I’m not an expert in any of this: I am at best an advanced beginner.

So I have some things to say, as a fellow white Edmontonian:

  1. You have white privilege. Not knowing you have it is part of how it works.
  2. It’s not your fault. Chance determined the colour of your skin which is a thing you can’t change just like someone of colour can’t change theirs.
  3. Because having white privilege is not your fault doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  4. Learning all this for this first time sucks. But so does racism and a world that privileges one group of people over another. Deal with it.

I also have a couple of things to say about the campaign:

  1. It’s not perfect. There are some legitimate complaints about the writing positioning “us” and “we” against “them”. This argument is not wrong.
  2. The campaign is over simplified in places. Probably in more places than I realize.
  3. In regards to items 1 and 2 above, the campaign has to be oversimplified in some respects because it’s targeted at a general overwhelmingly white public that probably has never heard of white privilege before and so it needs to be simple and short while still getting the main point across. Which I think it does fairly well.

 

Okay.

Now that you’re all gnashing your teeth at me, before you wade knee deep into a conversation about race and whether or not the campaign is racist please educate yourself first. Google “white privilege”. Learn how racism works.

Here are some resources to get you started. Some of these links I found on my own, some of them have been pointed out to me as “Important, Read This” by various people in a position to know way more about this topic than me, and some of them are well-known resources for anyone who has dared to wade into racism on the internet.

Comment Policy: If things get out of control I will have to freeze comments on this post because I just don’t have time to moderate the type of conversation this post might generate in the way it needs to be moderated. I almost didn’t publish it for that reason.

Leave a Comment (3) »

Edmonton Jasper Avenue Safety Survey Results

Monday, August 9th, 2010

The Jasper Avenue Safety Survey Results have been published online and I’m not terribly impressed by Toybox’s breakdown of the data.

They asked questions like “do you live in downtown Edmonton” but didn’t break down the rest of the results by people who live downtown and those who don’t. People who live downtown spend more time here and likely have a deeper understanding of the real versus superficial safety concerns. By mixing the data, how are we to know whether or not there are real safety problems or perception issues? If the people who live downtown report very different safety concerns (or levels of safety concerns) than those who are here only to work or only to experience the nightlife, the disconnect needs to be addressed. The two issues — safety versus perception of safety — have to be dealt with in very different ways.

Also, they asked for age but not gender. More women than men experience street harassment (especially walking past popular bars like Oil City after midnight) and are a much better indicator of harassment levels than 25-35 year old white men, who by comparison are targeted for harassment less frequently. Depending on the gender mix of survey respondants, the harassment numbers may potentially be under-represented.

People experience downtown areas in different ways depending on their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, whether or not they live downtown, and which area of downtown they live in. My sister, for example, who feels most secure in white picket fence enclosed suburbia does not feel at all safe walking downtown at night, whereas I, who live, work and play 24/7 downtown, would comparatively report I feel safe most of the time. Who is right and who is wrong? Is the issue my sister’s unwarranted anxiety the issue, or am I, as a resident, just too used to to living here to notice as many safety concerns? Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as most truths do, but this survey doesn’t provide the statistical depth required to help answer those legitimate questions.

I think a comprehensive survey of safety issues downtown is a great idea, but this survey isn’t very thorough and seems to skim the surface of a lot of issues that are worth a deep dive. I would be wary of drawing any conclusions from it until the data has been broken down further. I’m not certain Toybox Media was the best company to go through for this survey. Do they have the specialized statistical expertise needed to write and analyse a survey that has potential government and tax-dollar implications? Or would this have been better outsourced to a company that specializes in polling rather than one that specializes in marketing?

Comments Off

YEGfeminists’ First Meetup

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

About a month and a half ago, discouraged by an apparent lack of feminist groups in the Edmonton area, I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns and start up one myself. I created the Facebook group YEGfeminists and sent it around to some ladies I knew might be interested. The response so far has been encouraging: 22 members and counting so far, and while that may seem small, so far it exceeds any other Edmonton-based feminist group I can find.

We had our first meetup this past Tuesday at Original Joe’s Varsity, and though only seven of us could make it the conversation and company was excellent. It was awesome to talk about feminist challenges in the workplace, feminism in pop culture, street harassment, The Ethical Slut, and the dozen other feminism-related topics that came up in person with real live people rather than just throwing out thoughts to the Internet void. Blogging about feminism has been a great outlet for me, but conversation with other feminist-identifying women is something that has been missing from my life. Big thanks to Stephanie, Kasia, Nicoel, Kathleen, and Holly for coming out!

I’ve set up a YEGfeminists Twitter account to help facilitate conversation, communication and future events. I’m also hoping to set up a blog we can use to aggregate and point to content from multiple Edmonton feminist bloggers.

The next YEGfeminists event will likely be in early August, and I’d like to have a topic or theme of the night to help encourage and initiate conversation. If anyone has ideas for topics or meetup locations, please leave a comment on this post and let me know! (A note about locations: I was messaged by a couple of under-18 feminists who couldn’t attend because of the no-minors location, so I’d definitely like the next location to be age-inclusive.)

Leave a Comment (1) »

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!

Leave a Comment (2) »