Tag: hackathons


Dispatch from Intl Space Apps – Part 2

SpaceApps is live in most cities now. It is midday EDT with Vancouver and San Francisco about to start their days. There are 60 spaceapp challenges ranging across 4 categories: Software, Open hardware, Citizen science & Data Visualization. Participants are in 24 cities with over 2000 people registered.

IRC: “ favorite part of this challenge experience so far has been exposure to all these awesome existing projects and datasets.”

It is no secret that I love hackathons – big, global ones. Why? Because, the idea of doing a global hackathon is in its nascent stages. Each of the attendees may go on to lead other events to shape their world. Some of us have collaborated previously and others are new. All are welcome on this exciting effort to think about ways to contribute to real world topics. The best part of a global hackathon like SpaceApps is that we are all keen to tinker and make with avid curiousity. All the attendees are completely inspiring in their drive to contribute in self-less spirited ways.

Hacking My Way To Space from Nicholas Skytland on Vimeo.

Nicholas Skyland is in between Exeter and Oxford this weekend. MetOffice news wrote about his visit. Exeter is working on setting your location with #PredictTheSky #spaceapps. The app will default to current location.
via @sophiedennis (Note: all the projects have hashtags, much like twitter. That is how we communicate via IRC and piratepad.)

Exeter is launching a man into space. Or, so they say. NYC is spinning tunes for their event: “We got NYC startup @turntablefm rocking the house at @intlspaceapps New York! Join in & spin tunes with us turntable.fm #spaceapps, Nairobi has 25 new arduino noobies hacking hardware: (photo courtesy @afromusing)

Istanbul is also playing with Open Hardware: reading external sensors and sending them with a GPS tag to a web application.

Santa Domingo is just getting project oriented.

Conduit visited Israel #spaceapps and found this gadget

Jakarta got a visit via skype from @astro_ron

There are even virtual-only teams like Offline-Online with participants in Netherlands, US, Canada and Italy. (Disclosure: this is a project that I’m working on).

The teams are emerging, code is being built, and, most of all, people are talking about space, data and their connected journey.

Under the hood:

Global collaboration is hard, but worthy. We have parsed together Ustream, google docs, skype, IRC, scribblelive, twitter and email in a mash-up of communication mazes. All in the effort to keep the vibe and information going. here is an example pirate pad from Lausanne to show you how the cities are organizing in teams.

We highly encourage you to drop into the various Ustream channels to connect with folks and watch their progress.

Every single virtual and in-person global event we learn ways to improve the communication and workflow. It helps that there are familiar faces with experience in tech for social good. As we say, hackathons are love. We connect.

The virtual team is fantastic. Thanks Michael Brennan, Chris Gerty, Sara Farmer, Herr_Flupke, Aaron Huslage, and Willow Bl00.

Stay tuned for the next update from another team member. I’m on the early shift and need a hacknap.



Pods: ISN Podcast & Podcamp Toronto

Two pods in one week! Valerie Sticher of ISN: International Relations and Security Network interviewed me for the ISN podcast on “Crowdsourcing for Change“. And, I’ll host a Podcamp Toronto 2012 session on Sunday, February 26, 2012 focused on “Dispatches of Disruption“.

ISN podcast: Crowdsourcing for Change

In this 12 minute chat, we discuss Crisismapping, CrisisMappers Network, Ushahidi, Security and Hackathons (specifically Random Hacks of Kindness).

“In today’s podcast, Ushahidi’s Heather Leson discusses her organization’s use of crisis mapping techniques and outlines how non-state actors are increasingly collaborating online to tackle issues traditionally managed by governments.”

ISN Podcast

I highly recommend that you follow the full podcast.

Podcamp Toronto 2012

Podcamp Toronto 2012: Dispatches of Disruption

Sunday morning early sessions at Podcamp Toronto are sometimes quiet. Here’s to having a good discussion about Digital Activism and the power of the Internet.


Date: Sunday, February 26, 2012 11:00 ET
Location: Ryerson RCC203 (map)
Every day someone uses the power of the Internet to change their world. What does it mean to be a disrupter? an innovator? a volunteer? What lessons can you activate at home? at work?

I’ll share some examples of disruption aimed at corruption, elections, violence, potholes, agriculture, burgers, #futurewewant, and emergency response.

Some additional thoughts:
  • Digital activism from volunteering to hacking to mapping is changing institutions and governments.
  • We are just a mouse click away from change. Or, are we?

Hope you can join this chat. If you are only attending on Saturday, look for me at the registration desk.



YYZ to NBO: Why luring start-ups to Nairobi is a good thing. Josh Erratt’s article in Now Magazine focuses on how technical start-ups from Canada can connect with the Canadian Government and the SFO technical community.

For years I, too, yearned for the opportunity to work in Silicon Valley. Employed with Internet organizations since 2000 (backbone to registrar = OSI career), my first Internet access was via Carleton University’s Freenet in 1992 and I created my first website in 1995 at library school. SFO has been completely entrenched throughout my career as the tech golden bridge. When the Dot Com busted in 2001, I held on hope for a career in Internet and to someday work in SFO. With one foot in communications and one in technology as a Technical Incident Communications Lead, I began to apply to the big organizations who had their own data centers and technical crisis communication teams.

The 280 is a beautiful drive, dinner in Chinatown (amazing), gazing at the Bay Bridge is awesome and attending events with Internet leaders is thought-provoking. There is no doubt that SFO is worth visiting and, perhaps, heeding the call to move your start-up there. To be honest, how anyone gets work down with those views is beyond me!


Ihub photo by Erik Hersman

Location, Location

Now, these aspirations seem so myopic. The explosion of great technology worldwide shows that it is time to rethink “location plus Internet” start-ups and your career. Digital activism and volunteering after the Haiti earthquake took me on a journey into other global ecosystems. Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK), a global hackathon which I have lead in a few cities, takes place in Internet hubs around the world. By participating, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Internet leaders and various start-ups. Learning about their technical communities is inspiring. But, one does not need to look only to hackathons to see where the pulse is. Read the economic reports about the rise of mobile and beyond the BRIC to emerging economies.

Why NBO?

Nairobi, Kenya’s technical community is red-hot. Disclosure: I work for Ushahidi, a Nairobi-based start-up. The ihub is brimming with start-ups, events, bright savvy entrepreneurs and amazing ideas. Every time I go to the Ihub, I am overwhelmed by the pulse of start-ups, collaboration, and new technology.

David Talbot and I had coffee in the ihub while he was researching his Technology Review article: ” Kenya’s Startup Boom.” On the ihub:

The incubator opened in 2010 and now counts more than 6,000 members, with an average of 1,000 new applications a year. Most members are merely part of iHub’s online community, but more than 250 of them use the space. Some 40 companies have launched from iHub, and 10 have received seed funding from venture capitalists. The most successful so far is Kopo Kopo, which helps merchants manage payments from M-Pesa and similar services. One key to iHub’s growth is that Kenya’s IT infrastructure has improved significantly. The first Internet fiber connection landed at the Kenyan coast in 2009 (previous service had come through satellite dishes in the Rift Valley), and the country’s first truly mass-market Android smart phone went on sale in 2010, for $80. Safaricom now counts 600,000 smart phones of all kinds on its network and expects them to make up 80 percent of the market by 2014.

What if your Internet start-up ….

Some of the brightest Internet minds and start-ups are based in Toronto. I work for a global dispersed team and have one foot in Kenya and one in Canada. While I cannot speak directly to what it takes to be a start-up, I am left with more questions? Why not Toronto and why can’t the ecosystem be changed here to keep our best and brightest here?

Why recreate the beaten path to SFO? The technical spirit of “doing” and “innovation” is happening around the world. There are mountains of technical and start-ups hubs worldwide. I encourage you to think beyond SFO to build your start-up or your Internet career. Buy a plane ticket to NBO or Malaysia.

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