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June 17 2013


August 15 2012


Sublet my amazing office/studio: available from September until next spring.

Office space in Studio Huddle. Photo by Phillip Smith.

I find it amazing to think that fall is almost here. In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be off to New York City, Vancouver, and then heading back to my home in Oaxaca, Mexico for the winter. This summer has been epic and memorable in every possible way: I only wish I could have captured every little adventure in as much detail as the recent five days in Montreal. There’s always next year!

With the end of my Toronto stay in sight, it’s time to take care of a few logistics. Number one on the list is finding a magical person to sublet my space in the shared office/studio space known as Studio Huddle. People sometimes ask why I keep an office in Toronto when I’m away for so much of the year, and there’s only one answer to that question: I literally love the people I share the space with, and the space itself is the perfect oasis away from the other distractions in life.

Studio Huddle is roughly two thousand square feet of old-school style studio space on Niagara Street (just south of King, just west of Bathurst). North-facing light, white walls, and old hardwood floors — yep, it’s got it all. The space is shared by a dozen craft artists — mostly glass and metal artists — a photographer, and a couple of digital workers, including yours truly. Physically, the studio is split into five separate spaces: two craft studios, a glass studio, an office, and the large shared main space (~1000sqft). I rent a spot in the office that is located in the front of the space (north side); it’s filled with light all day and is home to roughly two digital workers and the occasional drop-in from the more creative types. More often than not, I have the office space to myself for most of the day. Rent also includes a couple of days of exclusive use of the main space, which I must admit I’ve never managed to make use of.

As mentioned, my studio mates are a super-creative bunch, and there’s just about every tool and piece of equipment that you can imagine here: think of it as a “hack lab” for non-technical types. I have to admit, it’s been a breath of fresh air to work in an environment where people are not focused on digital work … it’s grounding in some way to watch people work with their hands, and even to participate from time-to-time (now I know how to silk screen!).

My desk at Studio Huddle, complete with a nice chair, laptop stand, and reference books!

Okay, enough waxing poetic about how great the space and the people are, down to the details:

  • Sublet is available from roughly September 1st to Feb 28th, but the dates are flexible
  • The rent is $190/month and includes everything, taxes, high-speed wireless Internet, two locked storage shelves, studio fees, etc.
  • Also included is the use of my fancy-schmancy Herman Miller Mira chair, a laptop stand, a beautiful cactus, and several reference books (Canadian Oxford dictionary, Oxford Canadian compact dictionary, Bartlett’s Roget’s thesaurus, and The Chicago Manual of Style).

You should be:

  • Responsible: you need to be able to remember to close windows, lock doors, and so on if you’re the last person here.
  • Thoughtful: if you need to be on the phone all day, it’s probably not the right space for you.
  • Lightly equipped: there’s a good amount of space for a laptop and the usual office accouterments, but probably not for a giant three-screen desktop computer set-up.
  • Friendly and flexible: most days, you’ll probably be one of two or three people using the space and it’s pretty quiet, but some days there’s more going on and people are more social and chatty. If you need 100% silence all the time, probably not the right fit.
  • Creative: I think the space would be great for a freelance writer or journalists, a video editor or multimedia artists, a Web Maker, or something along those lines.

I think that’s it. The start and end dates are flexible, but it would be great — if you’re interested — if you came to see the space before September 1st.

Let me know if you’re interested by e-mail or hit me on The Twitters.

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May 09 2011


Hands on at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire (@MakerFaire_TO)

Sunday was a glorious day here in Toronto. And what better to do on a glorious day than ride your bike down to Toronto’s first Mini Maker Faire.

“Toronto Mini Maker Faire is the ultimate celebration of making, crafting, DIY-ing, tinkering, hacking and sharing. It’s a weekend where makers of all kinds will show off their projects and hold how-to workshops, with hands-on activities for all ages. Exhibits on display will include robots, laser cutting, letterpress printing, a 3D print gallery and kinetic sculptures.” — Toronto Mini Maker Faire Web site

With more than seventy ‘makers’ demonstrating their work or wares at the event — including several makers of the gastronomic kind — it was a feast for the senses.

If you missed it, here’s a quick, 180 second, peek into the Toronto Mini Maker Faire:

I’m almost embarrassed to mention that this was my first trip to the Evergreen Brick Works, one of the most interesting and lively re-developed areas in Toronto. If you haven’t been yet, you should definitely check it out on a weekend.

Over and out for today.

March 11 2011


Help wanted: Canadian media organization to lead on open data.

"Freedom of information is often thought to be about "the Press." Open Data, however, is about citizens"

Here's the 30-second version of this post:

  • The Guardian UK played an important role in pushing the open data and transparency agenda;
  • They did this, in many parts, by simply being a meeting point for the open data & transparency conversation;
  • Ultimately, it was probably timing -- an election -- that helped most to put open data on the UK government's radar;
  • With elections coming in Canada, what can open-data advocates of all stripes -- individuals, grassroots groups, and media organizations -- do to push this critical issue into the spotlight?

Last Friday morning, Emily Bell spoke to a small group gathered at the Samara offices on Prince Arthur Avenue. Over breakfast, she explained why the Guardian UK has invested so much energy into being the meeting point for the Open Data conversation.

Specifically, she described how the Guardian partnered early on with the pioneering open data efforts of Tom Steinberg and his merry band of open-data hackers at MySociety, and also how the Guardian was quick to adopt the idea of organizing "hack days," which sought to bring outside ideas inside. Early efforts like these led, in part, to the Guardian being invited to Downing Street to meet with the likes of Tim Burners-Lee and to discuss the benefits of open data with the UK government. "You have to do it," Emily implored those gathered at Samara, and -- ultimately, she proposed that "Wikileaks data would not have gone to the Guardian if not for their demonstrated skills in working with data."

It certainly left me asking, who will play the Guardian's role here in Canada? Who will be the lightening rod for the open data conversation?

Interestingly, most major Canadian news outlets already have at least one software developer working in the newsroom. More than that, David Skok shared that GlobalNews.ca had recently taken part in the Random Hacks of Kindness event at the University of Toronto -- an event that aimed to bring together "developers, geeks and tech-savvy do-gooders around the world, working to develop software solutions that respond to the challenges facing humanity today." However, it still feels like the most tangible open data efforts in Canada are coming from citizens like David Eaves, Russell McOrmond, and groups like Civic Access.

Ryan Merkely -- currently, Mozilla Foundation's director of programs & strategy, previously an advisor to the City of Toronto -- was quick to point out that most of the open data initiatives in Canada are coming from the municipal level, either through official efforts like www.toronto.ca/open or data.vancouver.ca, or through grassroots initiatives like Open Data Ottawa Hackfest and Montreal Overt. And, while there are challenges to getting provincial and federal data, that's not to say it doesn't happen -- one recent example is OpenFile's "Baby File" story, which asked the province of Ontario to hand over years of birth records. Where there's a will, there's a way, it would seem (at least if you're Patrick Cain).

Back to Emily Bell: asked about the launch of data.gov.uk in 2010, she was quick to point out that elections present an opportunity for movement toward greater transparency. (However, it's becoming ever-more clear that you have to hold elected officials accountable, or they'll actually do the opposite of what they campaigned on.) Often an upcoming election is incentive for the incumbents to make a bold move to win support, or for the challengers to make commitments that the incumbent refuses to address, and -- let's face it -- open data is an inherently non-partisan issue. So this all begs the question: how does open data become an election issue in Canada?

Even though Emily believes that the jury is still out on data.gov.uk, it's clearly a move in the right direction. It sounds like the big push for data.gov.uk came before the 2010 general election, and it came from people like Tim Burners-Lee and Tom Steinberg, both individuals who have been campaigning for open data for more than a decade. In Steinberg's case, he's taken the pragmatic hacker approach of continuing to innovate and demonstrate what's possible -- standing on the virtual Speaker's Corner and shouting "Hey, look at what I can do with this open data!" So the next question for Canada is, who is our Steinberg or Berners-Lee, who is constantly banging the drum at the federal level for more open data, and more transparency?

The movement for open data in the UK appears strong and vibrant, and it's likely that the Guardian played an important role by investing resources, providing space, and convening ideas and people around the issue. According to Emily, the first step was simply to set-up what is now known as the Data Blog; It became a gathering point for the broader conversation, and made it possible for disparate voices to find each other. The Guardian has called Canada an "open data and journalism powerhouse," but Canada still lacks this simple piece of the puzzle -- one visionary media organization to pick up the flag and say "We care about open data, we're going to convene the conversation."

Some will say that it's not the media's place to play a role here. However, at the end of breakfast last Friday, Emily Bell pointed out, in her perfect British accent, "The public gives the media permission to act."

So, let's give Canadian media permission to act on open data.

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July 06 2010


Press freedom group surveys journalists’ treatment by G20 police

Journalists who felt their freedom of expression was “compromised” by police at the recent Toronto G20 summit have been asked to share their experiences.

A survey is being carried out by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression in order to compile a public report.

This follows reports that four journalists have filed complaints to the police about their treatment.

The survey asks a series of questions, covering what the individual was doing at the summit, interactions with security officials and treatment by police.

The full post here…Similar Posts:

June 21 2010


Word clouds of official G20 messages

With the G20 summit almost upon Toronto, here is a word cloud of the message to residents from the federal government and the City of Toronto:

And here is one of the information for demonstrators from the G20 Integrated Security Unit:

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