Archive for the 'TorCamp' Category


Twitter – Faster Than A Speeding Bulletin

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Yesterday, I came home a little late after dinner to find I’ve missed about an hour of tweets related to the long-anticipated DemoCamp 19. Visiting the Democamp site, I found no front-page information about the upcoming event, but there was a link to Register for DemoCamp Toronto 19. All the regular tickets were already sold out! As it happens, I had recently completed my year-end and had budgeted to sponsor the event, so I grabbed what was probably the last remaining sponsor slot.

Today David Crow announced DemoCamp 19 and a new issue of Networking Only tickets to the event, again over the dinner hour, and by the time I saw it, the new set of tickets was also sold out.

I’m starting to see the value in an iPhone. I really don’t care to be a blackberry-toting tethered business drone, but there are certain things that are worthy of my immediate attention.


Discover and become a part of your local tech community with DemoCamp

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

I’m often asked for advice from people who are just starting to work in technology or who want to take their career to the next level and prepare to become an independent contractor or consultant.

Invariably my number one recommendation is that they begin to build a network of contacts in their local technology community. More often than not, they have no idea how to get started.

In the Toronto area, we’re fortunate to have a vibrant tech community. It wasn’t always so – it has grown significantly in the past couple of years largely due to David Crow’s importation of the BarCamp unconference, an event held a few times a year, generally over a weekend, where people interested in internet technology get together to collaborate.

Even more significant to the growth of Toronto’s tech community was the Toronto birth of DemoCamp, a more lightweight gathering featuring demonstrations from players in the local (and sometimes wider) tech community. Since it takes place in a single evening and is preceded and followed by informal mixing and discussion, it has become a fantastic venue to come out and observe the electricity and creativity of the community and even insert yourself into the fray.

Bootstrapped by the community and now gaining limited corporate support, DemoCamp is growing but still maintains its most important feature – an atmosphere where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and participate.

If there isn’t already a DemoCamp in your community, I strongly encourage you to take the initiative to start one. If you’re in the Toronto area, I hope to see you at Toronto DemoCamp 14 on September 17th, 2007.

My first DemoCamp was DemoCampToronto3, where I demoed BlogChat, an Ajax chat app I developed in early 2002. I have been to almost every subsequent DemoCamp and have witnessed its phenominal growth, as well as the various BarCamp offshoots such as DrupalCamp, EnterpriseCamp and a host of others. I’ve even participated at Geeks and Guitars, playing drums and bass with Joey DeVilla and James Walker.

It has been my pleasure to meet literally hundreds of local people who are passionate about technology, and to collaborate with some of the core people who continue to make DemoCamp a success. This month, I’ve personally pledged $200 to help towards the venue and I encourage others to find ways to lend their support.

The Toronto community also has a “Toronto Global Swarm” Skype channel that is open 24/7 and allows people to come and go and communicate with one another. You can get an invitation from anyone who is already in the chat.

So now you know the not-so-well-kept secret of how to get involved in your local tech community. Spread it around!

Update: David Crow has some details of the presentations lined up for DemoCampToronto14


Javascript – the Web 2.0 developer’s Babelfish

Monday, February 12th, 2007

In the post-demo schmooze at Toronto DemoCamp 12 last week, I was discussing Ajax-y things with a few people and I found myself articulating a notion that has been rolling around in my head unformed for a while – that of Javascript as Babelfish.

If you look some of the popular Javascript libraries and frameworks, an important aspect of their design is to make one’s Javascript code feel more like another environment that better suits the application or in which the designer (and ultimately user) is fluent.

To be precise, GWT is actually written in Java, so it doesn’t fit exactly but continues to demonstrate the trend of people wanting to stay in the environment they understand but have Javascript do the work.

Javascript is remarkable in its flexibility of expression that allows you to apply it to various idiomatic styles. I can’t think of another language that would be quite so accomodating.

Is this trend indicative of Javascript’s power, or the ingenuity of developers who are stuck with using Javascript in the browser when it differs from their environment of choice?



Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

[via David Crow]

BarCampEarthToronto takes place this weekend. I can’t make it for the event itself but I plan to be there with my family for the barbeque on Sunday.

Hope to see you there!


That Voodoo that I do

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

I was at DemoCamp 8 last night and as usual stayed later for the social networking. I got into a discussion with Pete Forde and others about who does what.

I have real trouble explaining to people what it is that I do. I often try to explain the nuance between being a scripter (which I am in spades) and a programmer (which I am not exactly) and the distinction falls short of conveying the gestalt that is the technical side of me.

I spend a lot of my time making a whole mess of things work together that were never meant to be integrated. It often takes a wide and deep range of knowledge to figure out the bits. I have variously called myself a technical spot-welder, a duct-taper, a spelunker, and a special-ops data diver, trained to get in under the wire and get out with the data.

Here’s an example – at one of my clients, something we do is give realtime tests against devices in the field. A diagnostic page could tell you, for instance, the contents of the ARP resolution table on a remote router. There is a bunch of magic that goes on behind the scenes to do this (simplified here):

  • the user presses the “get ARP table” button

    • the external portal web server (ASP.NET/Win2k3/MSSQL) makes a SOAP call to get the information
      • the soap call is received at an internal webservices server (Apache/PHP/BSD)
      • connection information is resolved against a PostgreSQL database
      • a shell script is invoked on the webservices server
        • the shell script uses ssh to connect over a secure tunnel to an API server at the customer premises that can route to the destination
        • a script is run on the API server (bourne shell, perl, telnet, curl, grep, sed, awk, lynx etc)
          • the script connects to the router, logs in, displays and parses information, logs out
      • info gets routed back to webservices server via the ssh connection
      • php assembles SOAP response
    • ASP.NET receves SOAP, builds result page
  • Result received by user

I make all that stuff happen.

Now how do I distill that into an elevator pitch?


The cream starts to rise

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Toronto’s DemoCamp5 this week once again demonstrated this city’s huge as-yet unsatiated thirst for tech collaboration.

Summaries and reviews of the content can be had from a few places – here are two of them:

I spent time afterwards working the room at the pub and had quite a few interesting conversations, the most interesting of which were with Ryan McMinn and Pete Forde of Unspace. I’ve been acquainted with Ryan for some time but was impressed with his depth and how well he articulates his passion. I met Pete at the last DemoCamp and we clicked on a few levels. and it was gratifying to share opinions on the state of webdev and its potential directions.

Pete has been posting some Unspace essays that contribute extremely well to the evolution of the web development commons. Highly recommended reading – there’s an rss feed to be had, so snarf it with all speed.

The braintrust at these gatherings is remarkable. Come and see for yourself. And I mean YOU.