Hacker Tourism

Tech strategy consigliere.

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Bitmaker Labs forced to halt operations mid-term by the Ontario government

Last week, BitMaker Labs was helping 25 aspiring programmers learn how to build sophisticated web applications in Rails. This week, their efforts are being criminalized.


First: I’m an organizer in the Toronto Ruby community. I am not legally affiliated with Bitmaker Labs, but I’ve met with them to discuss their program and I have several friends that were enrolled in the 2nd cohort.

I’m not qualified to say what the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) would consider a desirable outcome, or what about Bitmaker specifically provoked their wrath. I do know that we have a desperate shortage of Rails developers in Toronto, that my friends — enthusiastic future tech leaders, having a blast in the program — are demoralized, displaced and unemployed.

I worry for programs run by HackerYou and Ladies Learning Code; there are many similar programs running right now in...

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The Future of Authority

Jesse Hirsh’s excellent TEDx talk on “hacking reality” deserves your attention in light of the ongoing NSA PRISM scandal.

What I like about Jesse’s eerily prescient statements is that he attempts to provoke a subtle, non-partisan activism in his audience. His words compel the listener to visualize their own legacy inside a future in which they do not act against authority.

Absent is the patronizing and smug “I told you so” attitude common in tech media; instead, Jesse points out that the predictable trajectory of centralized power does not make it right or desirable.

Jesse reminds us that on the Internet, even being an observer has an impact. In doing so, he cunningly teaches what Emma Goldman said: “The most violent element in society is ignorance.”

“That first impression that comes from a Google search result is sadly far more powerful and authoritative than who you are as a...

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My big performance secret is pinball

I suspect that my love of pinball seems like a harmless anachronism to many people; throwback fun that fits comfortably with my other “eccentric” hobbies like film photography and collecting records. Don’t be fooled: life can be gamed, and pinball is a cheat code.

Ground Kontrol

Scientists say that chewing gum elevates your brain function for a short time period.

I do some of my best thinking (alone) in the shower, but practicality dictates that a shower should only last a short time. Similarly, I enjoy doing dishes; it’s a mindless activity that lets me use my hands, and I can take pride in a job well done. Everyone appreciates it and is generally happy to leave you alone with your thoughts.

Eventually you run out of warm water and all of the dishes are clean. What do you do when all of the gum has been chewed?

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”


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How I became a meddler

A story in which a gifted connector assembled 20 notable smart people in a 14th-century English cottage for three days to figure out how to make the world a better place, one passion project at a time.


First, let me introduce the idea of a Meddle: a new approach to solving hard problems that I believe you should be excited about. You can Meddle, too — and it’s important that you do.

Excerpted from the Meddle website:

Each Meddle is a unique gathering of brilliant people, invited to come together and tackle a specific issue. The issue can be anything, in any field, on any scale.

The aim of each Meddle is to conceive, develop and present something that ‘moves the needle’ on the chosen issue. It might be a website or a white paper. It might be a product prototype or a schools roadshow.

We curate and facilitate the event. We choose a wonderful location – which could be anywhere...

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I know the solution, but it’s illegal

If you have two car dealerships, and one of them offers financing… which one do you think will sell more cars?

Red vs. Blue

Many start-ups are match-makers that become irrelevant as soon as the buyer and seller party are acquainted. There is value created in these “marketplaces” but founders are stumped when it comes to capturing any of that value for themselves.

My proposal: make it possible to finance the purchase of goods via instant approval financing, presented as a first-class option alongside Visa and PayPal.

Let’s say a founder is passionate about something enough that they create a directory of every place to obtain it, complete with recommendations and reviews. Blood, sweat and tears are emitted and a community emerges. They make no attempt to cheapen the experience through advertising, bait-and-switch membership requirements or elaborate tracking schemes.

The founder can approach...

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If you want to get everything done, leave an introvert alone.

I find it increasingly tiresome to apologize for my need to be alone to recharge, for reasons that echo why many women are tired of educating men about equality.

Henry Rollins

Still, there has been progress and I feel hope every time the world seems closer to understanding what introversion is and is not.

The major milestones in my mind were Jonathan Rauch’s 2003 piece in the Atlantic Monthly, “Caring for your introvert” and more recently Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” and TED talk.

Just in the past few days there have been really enjoyable blog posts by Chris Coyier and D. Keith Robinson which all reflect a common set of realizations:

  • it’s rude to treat us like we’re broken or ignore us when we need to exit
  • we’re not letting you down and you’re not owed an explanation
  • we are biologically different and deserve equality
  • “extroverts make the best leaders and salespeople” is a myth
  • it’s amazing how...

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Good-bye Tumblr, hello Svbtle.

When “Invitation to Svbtle” showed up in my Inbox, I did a little happy dance in my living room.

My quiet return to blogging after many years happened last Fall, on Tumblr. I purchased a theme that I really liked, and got comfortable with the WYIWYG editing environment there. I did my best to embrace the constraints and get into the flow of things by following some interesting folks and watching how they used the platform.

I admit that I was hoping that the Tumblr social graph would bring some new readers. I quickly realized that there was no golden goose. Most of the Tumblr sites that get thousands of likes and reblogs are run by attractive young women with disproportionate numbers of lurker followers, or genuinely funny themed blogs that people love to send to friends.


It’s also fair to say that the generally technical topics I write about are just not a good fit for Tumblr’s...

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Dear Roseanne Barr: Thanks

Hi Roseanne,

I grew up watching your show. I recently re-watched the last scene of the last episode. Honestly, it had a really profound impact on me.

First, I’d completely blocked out how the show ended from my memory, because I think it upset me at the time. As an adult I am blown away at how you managed to create such a painfully authentic and decidedly un-Hollywood ending. I know that you had to fight every day to do “Roseanne” on your own terms, and that you likely got a lot of pushback. And Jackie was gay! Of course she was.

Second, I was struck by an obvious-in-hindsite realization about how significant a role you played in me establishing progressive values. My family wasn’t so different from your “family”, and you really were the ultimate strong female role-model. There’s no question that I’m a better person for your influence on my development.

Thanks for being so damn...

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Growing By Shrinking

Most of my friends and clients are growing their companies while I am determined to reduce my own. This is the true story of my experience with building a successful shrinking empire.

Drink Me

There is no empirical evidence to prove that a large company is inherently more successful than a small company. Even though 37signals is no longer small by their own standards, Jason and David have long championed the upside of slow, considered growth.

CyberPlex was one of the three cool web consultancies in Toronto during the DotCom era. Big enough to be taken seriously — still an order of magnitude smaller than the big players — CyberPlex in the early days felt organic and home-grown. They were the hip, “agile” choice.

When I first moved to Toronto, I was employee number 42 at CyberPlex. It was 1999 and they swelled to almost 200 people within months through a combination of aggressive hiring and...

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Democracy is hard.

I’m currently sitting on a train in Ottawa on my way home to Toronto.

Literally sitting; the train hasn’t moved in four hours. There’s a blockade of the tracks which is part of a much larger solidarity protest across Canada. Native Canadians are demanding action in the form of access to the basic needs of life such as shelter, food, education and health care in Attawapiskat, an extremely remote First Nation in Northern Ontario.

There’s no question that idlenomore is a reaction to complex, nuanced issues. The problems are compounded not just by racist ignorance but a general lack of awareness amongst non-Native Canadians. Until these past few weeks and the idlenomore movement’s mobilization, Native issues were simply not on the minds of most Canadians. It’s no Arab Spring (yet?) but it’s a level of activism that we don’t see often in Canada.

And our Federal leaders? They are being real...

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