Friday, November 30, 2012

Givyup Your Christmas

Today I'm super proud to be helping launch Givyup and even more proud to be using it to donate part of my xmas to Calgary Reads!

Here's my page:

Please check out the site in general and pass it along to anyone and everyone who you think might want less stuff this Christmas.
The expectation isn't that anyone would give up getting/giving gifts entirely, just that, for every little gift that people get, just to show that they're thinking about you, you can more easily say: "please support this charity instead of just putting more money into the consumption cycle".

Please check it out and please pass it on if you know of people who'd appreciate such an endeavour!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How are we using the Internet?

Google "the Internet has changed everything". You don't find one article from one field, you find a ridiculous number from a wide set of fields. It seems no matter what you do, or who you are, you just might have had the urge to say "the Internet has changed everything for me".

Some people refer to the Internet revolution in contrast to the industrial revolution but I think that's a gross underestimation. I'd compare it to say, the advent of human language. It's barely begun and if used correctly can give people near telepathic communication across any practical distance. And that's just Twitter. ;-)

The burning question I have is "are we using it right"? I mean "right" in two specific senses. 1) Are we using it in the most effective way. 2) Is the impact we make with it good for us.

In my personal experience I encounter people who swim in online technologies like fish in water. I also happen to have the good fortune of being connected to some incredible souls who I want to fix the world and who, I believe, have the wisdom and know how to do it. Unfortunately these wise souls more often then not are not the ones who take to the net like fish to water and vice versa. I know brilliant marketers and communicators who have never asked "what impact will this product I'm promoting have on society as a whole". I know social visionaries who won't respond to email and think social media is for kids and a waste of time.

Bringing these people face to face and making them listen, really listen, to each other is one of my personal missions. If you fall into one of these categories I want to invite you to an event. If you fall into both I really want to invite you. If you fall into neither I really really really want to invite you to the Unconference for Social Good:

Please follow the link and learn a bit about it. It should be a really interesting day!

It's been over a year now since this unconference took place and I can honestly say that that day has impacted my thinking and action on a daily basis ever since.

There has since been another unconference last month called the Unconference for Post Partisan Politics that involved some of the same players. While I am involved in the hosting initiative, 1 Calgary Centre, I was unable to attend the unconference proper, so i can't really comment on how it impact. I'm not sure if initiatives like 1 Calgary Centre can be credited to the Unconference for Social good, although many of my connections that led me to it were forged on that day, so perhaps at least in part we can say it did.

I look forward to many other initiatives that are currently brewing with cone of my fellow co-unconference attendees. Like EpicYYC and Social Media for Social Impact , just to name a couple. And there's more where those came from.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Raise It Up", The Calgary Centre for Global Community's First Anual Fundraiser

For those of you who don't know, I'm on the board for the Calgary Centre for Global Community. Our mission is to serve as a catalyst and facilitator for the work of civil society through education, raising awareness and accelerating the ability of people and organizations to create a better world.

We've planed an event called "Raise It Up!" and this will be our first annual fundraiser. It will take place at Headspace, located on the main floor of the Karo Group building, 1817 10th Ave SW, on Thursday, October 20, from 7 to 10 PM. 

I'd like to invite all and any of you to join us for live performances throughout the evening, a buffet, a cash bar, and a silent auction with some surprising out-of-box prizes! Tickets are $50, half of which is a tax-deductible donation.

If you like, you can instead make a donation directly to the Calgary Centre for Global Community for $35 or more and I will buy your ticket! Just let me know you're interested and I'll first get you a ticket and then collect the donation from you later.

I really hope you'll join us!

Purchase tickets here:

Or just donate here:

Please share this invitation and this offer with anyone you think might be interested.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mayor Elect Nenshi and the Swearing In Ceremony Monday October 25th

I had this letter shared with me and I'd like to share it with all of you:

Hello friends,

Unlikely things happened this week. More than half of eligible Calgarian voters fulfilled an act so basic to active citizenship. A candidate who best captured a collective yearning for responsive and progressive governance won as mayor. An unspoken consensus was forged - that the city is ripe for change. As a result, there is an air of hope and optimism in Calgary.

Naheed Nenshi will take his oath of office on Monday and take on the challenge of fulfilling many expectations. It will be difficult. I will be wearing purple to show my support for him.

But I will also be wearing purple to show my solidarity with other Calgarians who share the same aspiration for a better Calgary. More importantly, I will be wearing purple because I am making my own silent oath that I will do my part, wherever I can and with whomever I can, to work for a better Calgary. I believe that we need both good governance and strong citizenship to transform this fleeting moment of hope into a movement and force that can achieve the change we want.

Cesar Cala

Feel free to pass on this message

A Great City for Everyone

United Way of Calgary and Area
United We Create a Better Future

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tweeters should buy Twitter

There has been a lot of buzz in the Blogosphere about Twitter buyout offers (from Facebook, Yahoo!, Google, etc.) as well as a lot of talk about how Twitter (or rather Tweeting) is too important to be controlled by any single vendor and how it's too important to be so susceptible to outages.

The fist vein of discussion is about monetization. If Twitter can't find a way to make money (without messing with their winning and incredibly simple formula) the thought is that they will be open to a massive buyout offer (and then they'd just let the buyer worry about monetization).

They second vein of discussion in about reliability. The main recurring theme here is decentralization (open it up they say, it should be distributed like any of many of the technologies that make the Internet what it is).

While I find the first idea to be plausible, the second, in my opinion, is not something that Twitter is ever going to accept (ie. i think they would fight, to the death, against it). Oh sure, there are many competitors out there, and some that are better in many respects, but a twitter by any other name is simply not as sweet. The power that Twitter now holds is in their brand. They've crossed a tipping point and are on their way to becoming a household name (if they aren't already). They are now a brand juggernaut of sorts, continuing to attract new users, not through superior qualities, but through massive massive recognition. So, I don't see them being simply replaced and or dethroned anytime soon.

However, I see a convergence between these two ideas. The problems of "How can Twitter be monetized?" and "How can Twitter be stabilized?" have at least one answer in common.

Tweeters should control Twitter.

Now I don't see Twitter allowing this to come about with any less of a fight than allowing themselves to be replaced in any other way, distributed or otherwise. So going back to the idea of a massive buyout offer, which I think they'd be likely to consider if the price were right: If the Twitter community could organize and raise enough money to make a serious offer (through micro-donations, pledge drives, corporate sponsorship or what have you) I think Twitter would be just as likely to take Tweeters' money as Google's or Yahoo!'s. Once Tweeters were in the driver seat I think there would be very little resistance to attempts to open up, decentralize, and stabilize Twitter.

I think the idea is crazy enough to work. What do you think?


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Calgary Hacker Space

Recently a friend of mine, wrote:

"Calgary needs a hackerspace. Not because “Vancouver, Toronto & Montreal have one”, but because the Calgary hacker community is stagnant and scattered. We need a physical place where hackers can come together with the purpose of sharing, learning, teaching, and nurturing personal growth. I envision this meatspace location as a place where like-minded people can come to work on very cool projects and allow for the teaching of anyone around to learn.

I should clarify something pretty quick here: I don’t mean “hacker” as in evil computer vandals/criminals. I also don’t think “hacker” is constrained to computer activities. Anyone is a hacker if they possess the mindset of curiosity, abstract thought, and imagination. A hackerspace is for anyone that knows a bit of stuff, with a thirst to learn more, and wants to apply their knowledge/learning to cool projects. I envision those projects including (but not limited to):

  • Arduino programming & other electronics
  • lockpicking
  • computer security
  • physical security
  • personal privacy & anti-surveillance
  • rapid prototyping
  • crafting of physical objects (metalwork, woodwork, knitting, etc.)
  • alternative energy
  • cellphone exploration
  • voip usage & research
  • radio communication

The above list should also include overlaps between two or more themes, such as:

  • electronics+clothes-making = wearable computing
  • physical security+computer security = using RFID as a lock
-- Calgary Hackerspace - a call to action
I've never really referred to myself as a "hacker", but that's a term that might apply to me. Whether it does or not, I want to do what i can to help this idea happen.

I must confess, that I'm not even terribly interested in the actual space. I like to deal with the abstract. Even code is a little more concrete then i prefer to get.

I'm really interested in the process. I'm interested in the concept of a group of really smart people, who don't have much in common aside from a passion for something that makes them interested in something else such that someone else might call them a "hacker", all coming together and trying to accomplish something big as a group.

I'm interested in how the space and the group will be managed. How will the group make decisions? Where will the space be? Will it be one space or many? Who holds the keys? Who holds the money? Where does the money come from? IS there even any money? Who owns the space? Who cleans the space? Will people sleep there? Will people eat there? Will people live there?

I've got lots of ideas and, being an idea guy, the idea of being surrounded by people who can take a good idea and run with it excites me!

If any of this excites you, or even mildly interests you, please join the google group or the facebook group and figure out a way to help.


[ UPDATE: 2009-7-9 ]

With a lot of hard work from some dedicated individuals the Calgary Hacker space is coming along nicely!

Congratulation on the new digs Protospace!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Agile Software Development vs agile software development

I just read Stevey's Blog Rants: Good Agile, Bad Agile and at first i thought he was being overly dramatic and critical, but the more i read about his understanding of Google-style project management the more i realized that he and i are in agreement about what's good and what's bad about "Extreme Programming".

I've started my own company* and, although we are small, we are a team. I've always called what we do "Agile Software Development". Maybe he's right. Maybe we aren't "Agile", but we ARE "agile" and i want to keep it that way because it's great!

Back in the day, i latched on to "Extreme Programming" because the methodology promised salvation from some very undesirable situations. One part of Steve's rant sounds very familiar:

- hire a bunch of [programmers], then hire more.
- dream up a project.
- set a date for when they want it launched.
- put some [programmers] on it.
- whip them until they're either dead or it's launched. or both.
- throw a cheap-ass pathetic little party, maybe. This step is optional.
- then start over.

I've experienced this. It sucks!

As i read Steve's description of Google i recognized the similarities in the ways we prefer get things done (most likely because we've been inspired and heavily influenced by Google's example).

- there are managers but most of them code at least half-time.
- developers can switch teams and/or projects any time they want.
- they never tell developers what to work on (they let them choose their main project).
- developers are strongly encouraged to spend some of their time working on side projects.
- there aren't very many meetings.
- it's quiet.
- there aren't a lot of gantt charts and date-centric dead-lines.
- crunch periods are the exception, not the norm.
- people get fed (especially during crunches).
- people are encouraged not to overwork.

This isn't exactly what we do, but our way isn't so different:

- our developers are our managers.

I believe that you can't effectively manage a role you couldn't preform yourself.

- our developers are not assigned to one project.

Any of us may help out on any given project. We go where we are needed. It's up to the "manager's" to keep track of what resources they have and what resources they need and ask for help when necessary.

- we choose to work on the projects we work on.

We don't take on projects that don't have the potential to inspire us to work on the deeper problems that really interest us. We take on every task with one eye towards research and one eye towards results. It's this cross-eyed balancing act that keeps us interested in the work we are doing.

- we try to keep our deadlines as soft as possible

We still have deadlines because most clients don't want to hear "It'll be done when it's done!" but the truth is that even tho most clients have preconceived deadlines, they usually recognize when they need to let those deadlines slide.

Old habits die hard and i don't expect every one of my clients to see deadlines the same way i do: as a misnomer. There is nothing "dead" about our deadlines. It's just a target or a milestone (which isn't even necessarily a date). Most projects live for a long long time after the first "launch" or "release" and that's not a bad thing.

- we recognize that crunches and meetings should be kept to a minimum

We still meet (and crunch) more then we'd like to, but we splurge on good food when we do. I like to call it our Sushi budget ;)

So I'd say Google-style project management works well for us. Whether you call it "Agile", or "Extreme" doesn't really matter that much to me. The the important thing is that Google has proved that a methodology like this can scale. "Scaling" means it works on the small scale as well as the large scale.

I can't help wondering if it "Slides" as well as it "Scales". Can these same practices work for other industries? Legal? Accounting? Finance? Journalism? Creative writing? Music? any industry in which "thought workers" produces "artifacts"?

I intend to find out, and i'd welcome all the help i can get!

* It's not just MY company. There are several of us and really it's OUR company.