Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 44

Edmonton’s 44th DemoCamp took place on Tuesday night at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. It was the first DemoCamp of 2019. You can see my recap of DemoCamp Edmonton 43 here.

DemoCamp Edmonton 44

If you’re new to DemoCamp, here’s what it’s all about:

“DemoCamp brings together developers, creatives, entrepreneurs and investors to share what they’ve been working on and to find others in the community interested in similar topics. For presenters, it’s a great way to get feedback on what you’re building from peers and the community, all in an informal setting. Started back in 2008, DemoCamp Edmonton has steadily grown into one of the largest in the country, with over 200 people attending each event. The rules for DemoCamp are simple: 7 minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed.”

Here’s my Twitter thread for the event. We had six demos, in order of appearance:

CleanNow is aiming to be the Uber for house cleaning. They launched in early December and now have more than 400 active customers over the last 30 days. CleanNow is trying to solve the problem of finding a reliable house cleaner, so they demoed some of the features that support that. The backend is written in Code Igniter and they have a PHP API. Payments are done in-app with Stripe. CleanNow is launching next in Calgary, hopefully in March.

The World’s Opinion, or two for short, was inspired by election polls and how inaccurate they can be. “Everyone has a phone so why can’t we get a sense of what people are thinking?” Noah said. The app is currently iOS only (built in Swift from scratch) and allows users to vote on questions by swiping left or right, to ignore or skip questions by swiping up, and to save a question for later by swiping down. The question editor looks like the Instagram story interface and allows for thumbs up/down or two-choice questions. Everyone can see the breakdown of responses for a question, including some basic demographics like gender. The backend uses Google Firebase, and Noah said he’ll probably do an Android version at some point.

Sparkshot is an art discovery platform with a twist. Artists create artwork, upload it to the site, and behind the scenes Sparkshot will cover it in black pixels. Users can then purchase pixels (using Bitcoin micropayments) to reveal the art over time (price per pixel is set by the artist). Each piece looks a bit like a jigsaw puzzle until it is fully revealed. Once finally revealed, anyone can see and share the png file as well as all of the messages the buyers posted along the way. Because it uses Bitcoin, there’s no need to know who is buying the pixels, so there’s no account to create. Jarret and Dean demoed Forkdrop.io at DemoCamp Edmonton 42, another Bitcoin-related project.

I remember participating in hackathons and it seemed like an achievement to get the entire team setup in source control and have a simple website built. How things have changed! Eric and Mark showed us their hackathon project, which is a gesture controlled robotic arm. They built a wristband with eight pressure sensors to measure muscle movement that sends data to an Arduino micrcontroller and on to a computer with a classifier to convert the muscle movement into four different motions for the robotic arm. They told us they currently measure 200 data points for each position. In the future they’d like to make the wristband wireless and they also talked about prototyping their own microcontroller boards to speed up signal processing. Amazing.

Next up was RevonTech with Animus, which is a small device that can power a string of up to 150 LEDs in sync with music. They 3D printed the case and designed the board themselves to ensure that power consumption was kept to a minimum (it can run continuously for over 6 hours). Animus can control the lights based on frequency and also does some beat detection. Using the mobile app, users can choose from a collection of patterns. Patrick told us they wanted it to be a plug-and-play kind of device, for people who don’t know all the tech, but want to take advantage of it at a concert. We also learned the hardware supports far more than they have been able to implement in software thus far. Animus is about to launch in beta!

The final demo of the night was VSS-30, which Matthew explained is an attempt to emulate those electronic keyboards you probably played with as a kid. He modeled the keyboard in Blender and it took about 15 hours. VSS-30 runs entirely in the browser using WebGL and features all the effects, synthesizers, and recording that you could hope for. “Is there a way to save your creations out of this?” someone asked. “Absolutely not!” was the response. Matthew said it’s about recreating the toy experience. “Go in, making something cool, and then let go of it.”

I really enjoyed all of the demos! It was my favorite kind of DemoCamp: a nice mix of software and hardware.

DemoCamp Edmonton 44

Here are the events and other announcements that were mentioned in-between demos:

  • Student DevCon is coming up on March 23, 2019 at the Edmonton Convention Centre. Tickets are just $35 and include all sessions, swag, breakfast, and lunch.
  • Business Model 101 is Startup Edmonton’s most popular workshop. It is running twice per month for the next few months, and new for 2019, you can attend in Riverbend or Meadows, so you don’t need to travel downtown.
  • There are plenty of upcoming community meetups listed at the Startup Edmonton meetup site.
  • DemoCamp Edmonton 45 is scheduled to take place on March 12, 2019.

You can also check out the Tech Roundup for the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community every Tuesday. Here’s the latest edition.

If you’ve got something to show, apply to demo at a future event.

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 45!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #331

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup:


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Media-related updates from elsewhere

And here is some non-local media news that I found interesting this week:

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 27, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

New interchange to create jobs, attract investment 129823
New interchange to create jobs, attract investment, photo by Premier of Alberta

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Rogers PlaceInside Rogers Place

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Media Monday Edmonton: Update #330

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup:

  • The 20th annual Corus Radiothon took place last week raising a total of $1,564,455 for the Stollery Children’s Hospital, the highest two-day total since the event began in 1999. The annual radiothon has raised more than $23 million over the last 20 years.
  • Long-time Alberta broadcaster Peter Watts died in Calgary on Friday morning at the age of 68. In a statement, Watts’ family said he “peacefully passed away.” Watts began his career at CBC Edmonton in 1976.
  • After 21 seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos, PA announcer Al Stafford is leaving to become the PA announcer with the Edmonton Oilers. “Thanks for your years of service to the Edmonton Eskimos and all the best calling the @EdmontonOilers!” tweeted the Eskimos.
  • Here is the latest Alberta Podcast Network Roundup. They have added Shaw Business as a new sponsor.
  • Via Vintage Edmonton, here’s a 630 CHED Aircheck from 1977 featuring Wes Mongomery, Jerry Forbes, Stan Ravendahl, Eddie Keen, Randy Kilburn, Ken Conners, Barry Wall, Don Kennedy, Chuck Chandler, Bob Layton, C.R. Nichols and Clifford Oginski.

Premier speaks at Alberta Industrial Heartland Conference 18
Premier speaks at Alberta Industrial Heartland Conference, photo by Premier of Alberta

Media-related updates from elsewhere

And here is some non-local media news that I found interesting this week:

  • Facebook has announced it is spending $300 million over the next three years on news partnerships and programming, with an emphasis on local.
  • Phillip Smith, who has launched a series of journalism entrepreneurship bootcamps, argues that journalism innovation has a pipeline problem. “The same people getting support today are the people that have always had support, and those are typically people who are financially able to take a risk on a full-time academic program or a full-time startup attempt — basically, the status quo, just with smaller budgets.”
  • The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has shared its 2019 Trends and Predictions report. They predict ongoing trends “are likely to lead to the biggest wave of journalistic lay-offs in years – weakening further the ability of publishers to hold populist politicians and powerful business leaders to account.”
  • Last year, someone gave the City of Calgary an advance copy of a column written by the Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell. But it wasn’t Bell or his editor.
  • BuzzFeed says its story about Donald Trump directing Michael Cohen to lie to Congress was reviewed by at least three editors and that they’re sticking by it, even though Robert Mueller’s office took the “extraordinary step” of issuing a statement challenging the story’s accuracy.

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 20, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • An investment of $2.5 million from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund will support the rebuilding of the Roxy Theatre. “This funding will support the construction of a new 14,639-square-foot Roxy Theatre, which will be rebuilt in its original location on 124th Street. The new facility will include a 200-seat black box theatre, an 80-seat studio theatre, a rehearsal hall and a gallery in the lobby. It will also be fully accessible for audiences and artists with disabilities.”
  • J.C. Sherritt has announced he is retiring from professional football after spending eight years with the Edmonton Eskimos. “Just to get to call myself an Edmonton Eskimo for the rest of my life means a great deal,” he said.
  • Council will be discussing the snow & ice program this week and there will be tough questions about the memo on calcium chloride that recently surfaced. “Councillor Scott McKeen, who reviewed the memo, previously said he plans to make an inquiry as to why city administration did not share it with councillors.”
  • David Edey, who served as Edmonton’s City Clerk from 1997 to 2008, passed away on January 10. “David’s work paved the way for Council to do their best work,” said City Manager Linda Cochrane. “He was an unwavering supporter of staff and his community, always believing that a helping hand could make a meaningful difference.”
  • The Hyatt brand is returning to Edmonton with a new hotel in the former Enbridge Tower (the one on 102 Street with the peaked roof).
  • The suicide barriers that were installed on the High Level Bridge a few years ago are failing to prevent crisis calls according to a new Edmonton Police Commission report. “It’s very troubling that we still have these numbers,” said Councillor Scott McKeen.
  • The new Edmonton Opera Centre is located inside a 22,000-square-foot brick warehouse in the northwest part of Edmonton. “The opera centre is also home to the Freewill Shakespeare Festival, set builds for Opera Nuova and rehearsals of The Singing Christmas Tree, among other groups.”
  • According to Environment Canada, the rest of the winter is likely to have above normal temperatures.
  • Information sessions on upcoming Neighbourhood Renewal work are taking place over the next few weeks at Royal Gardens, Highlands, Alberta Avenue, Inglewood, and Strathcona.
  • The LRT will be completely shutdown on Sunday, January 27 to accommodate testing of the Thales signalling system. “Customers will still see trains running on the tracks, but will not be permitted to board.”
  • The Edmonton Arts Council anticipates adding 11 new public artworks to the City of Edmonton Public Art Collection in 2019, five of which are by Edmonton-based artists.
  • From Linda Hoang: 10 Vietnamese Edmonton Entrepreneurs Worth Following.
  • Episode 21 of Speaking Municipally covers the bike share, calcium chloride, and everything else that City Council was discussing this past week. The latest Council Roundup has everything you need to know about the week ahead.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Health Innovation, Music, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups. We’re back at it this week!

Untitled
High Level bridge and North Saskatchewan River, photo by rjbeeswax

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Legislature Lights Segway Tour

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Media Monday Edmonton: Update #329

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup:

2019_01_11GoldenBearsVolleyball (9)
Photo by Don Voaklander

Media-related updates from elsewhere

And here is some non-local media news that I found interesting this week:

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 13, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Government centre Edmonton January 4 2019
Alberta Legislature, photo by Jason Woodhead

Upcoming Events

Heaviest load ever to travel on Alberta’s highways 127334
Heaviest load ever to travel on Alberta’s highways, photo by Premier of Alberta

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Media Monday Edmonton: Update #328

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup:

  • CKRA-FM returned from its all-Christmas-music format on Dec. 26 with a new name: 96.3 The Breeze. The format is not unique to Edmonton, with Vancouver’s CHLG-FM making the switch to The Breeze last month.
  • Larry Donohue retired as CFCW’s Music Director on Dec. 21 after 50 years in radio, 35 of them with CFCW. “On Larry’s last day country’s shining star Brett Kissel came into the station and serenaded Larry with the song “The Cowboy Rides Away” and then shared with the staff how much Larry’s support propelled his career by playing his music on CFCW,” reports Marty Forbes. CFCW drive host AJ Keller has taken over the Music Director responsibilities.
  • A trailer has been released for Boyle McCauley News: 40 Years – The Little Community Newspaper That Could. The film will be released in March.
  • News from the Alberta Podcast Network: The Read-Along and OtherWise are the newest members and six member podcasts have been nominated for Canadian Podcast Awards. Here is the latest APN roundup.
  • Linda Hoang has shared some best practices for businesses looking to work with social media influencers. “When both sides treat influencer requests as a professional business exchange, the influencer marketing industry will be better.”

City Hall Media Room
City Hall Media Room

Media-related updates from elsewhere

And here is some non-local media news that I found interesting this week:

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 6, 2019

Happy New Year! It was nice to have a break, but now I’m ready to get back down to business.

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • Former Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Gene Zwozdesky has died of cancer at the age of 70.
  • The City has mailed 2019 property assessment notices. “Overall, the residential market experienced a 1.7 per cent decrease in assessed value.” Call 311 if you have any concerns with your assessment. March 11 is the deadline to file formal complaints with the Assessment Review Board. Property tax bills will be delivered in May.
  • A report issued by the Civic Service Union 52 before Christmas says the City could cut management positions to save $100 million over a four-year budget cycle. “Micro-management in an organization this complex can cause gridlock,” wrote Elise Stolte.
  • China stopped accepting 24 kinds of waste at the beginning of 2018, including paper and plastics. Now Edmonton-area municipalities are struggling to manage the increased recycling costs. “It has increased the competition across the board,” said Mike Robertson, contract manager for Edmonton’s Materials Recovery Facility.
  • Could this be the year of the bike in Edmonton? Elise Stolte argues that a “cheap, easy, bike share can make the millions Edmonton invested in bikes lanes a benefit to the masses.”
  • According to Statistics Canada, Alberta lost nearly 17,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate in Edmonton was 6.3%.
  • Councillors Cartmell, Hamilton, and Paquette spoke about their concerns with the Valley Line West LRT in year-end interviews. All three “voted in favour of the route and design for the 14-kilometre stretch of the Valley Line between downtown and Lewis Farms in the west end.”
  • The City of Edmonton’s urban hen program is capped at 50 sites and there are currently 12 applicants on the waiting list.
  • SkyriseEdmonton has a look at the proposed Stadium LRt Station redesign. “Stadium Station, according to 2017 passenger counts, has the third-lowest utilization of any station on the LRT system, still only being primarily used for a handful of stadium events every year.”
  • Edmonton’s first baby of 2019 arrived 21 days ahead of schedule, weighing in at five pounds, seven ounces. She was born just eight minutes into the new year.
  • Put your Christmas tree out next to your garbage bags by 7am on Wednesday and the City will collect it for recycling. “For Christmas trees to be acceptable for composting, all ornaments, tinsel, garlands, nails, screws and tree stands must be removed.” You can also take natural Christmas trees to an Eco Station for free until January 31.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Health Innovation, Music, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups. We’re back at it this week!

Edmonton 2019
Edmonton 2019, photo by IQRemix

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NextGen City Jam 2018, photo by Edmonton’s NextGen

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Cyber Summit 2018: How to Fix the Future

Andrew Keen was the keynote speaker on the first day of the Cyber Summit last month, an annual technology conference organized by Cybera. They were gracious enough to host me this year as a guest. The theme for 2018’s event was “Mind the Gap: Surviving (and Thriving) in the Age of Disruption”. That’s exactly where Keen began.

“We are living through the age of disruption,” he said.

Andrew Keen

Keen is an entrepreneur who founded Audiocafe.com back in 1995, but he’s best known as an author and critic of Internet culture. I remember reading his first book, The Cult of the Amateur, shortly after it was published in 2007. As an entrepreneur myself (in podcasting) not to mention an early and enthusiastic adopter of Twitter, I remember strongly disagreeing with his critique of Web 2.0 and user generated content. It made me angry. I had read James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds around the same time and I couldn’t believe how different Keen’s perspective was. Why couldn’t he see?!

So, it’s no surprise that I started reading Keen’s latest book, How to Fix the Future, with some hesitation. Would it rankle me as well? I hadn’t finished it by the time the keynote rolled around, but I had read enough to have an idea of what to expect. And I was looking forward to it.

“Is technology shaping us or are we shaping it?” he asked. Keen spoke about Marshall McLuhan, lamenting that technology was supposed to create a global village. “We were promised that the new business models were truly revolutionary,” he said. We’d have greater cultural understanding, more jobs, and more equality. But, “something has gone wrong” and that promise “for the most part, has not been realized.” There have been other unforeseen effects too. He thought McLuhan would be “amused by the unintended consequences of technology.”

“I’m not a Luddite,” Keen protested. “I’m not suggesting there aren’t benefits of technology, that’s self-evident.” He also knows that there’s no going back. “Digital is the reality, for better or worse, and we need to make it work,” he said.

Not only has the promise of a better future not been realized, we’ve found ourselves with new problems to deal with. Inequality, the demise of expertise, the echo chamber, and privacy are all among the concerns Keen raised. “The inequality in economic terms is astonishing,” he said, predicting that there is a great jobs crisis on the horizon. Describing “surveillance capitalism” Keen suggested that “privacy itself is a potentially fundamental casualty.”

So, what to do about it? “We’ve been through this before” with the industrial revolution, he said. “We break the future and then we fix it; that’s what we do.”

In his keynote as in his book, Keen spoke about Utopia, written by Thomas More in 1516. It was “a call to arms, to make the world a better place,” he told us. It’s a useful way to frame his argument that each of us has a responsibility to be a part of the solution. “We have to be careful not to fall into the utopian discourse of the first generation of web tech,” he warned.

Keen suggests we have five tools with which to fix the future: regulation, competitive innovation, worker and consumer choice, social responsibility, and education. He only spent a few minutes on these in his keynote, but elaborates on each in the book.

The section on regulation stood out for me. He compares the current state of technology to that of the automobile in the 1960s when the lack of safety regulations resulted in high numbers of auto-related deaths and injuries. He shared the story of how Ralph Nader’s bestselling book Unsafe at Any Speed brought the issue of traffic safety into the national discourse and led to the passage of seat-belt laws and other traffic safety measures.

Could something similar happen in tech today? I don’t know what the digital equivalent of the seat-belt might be, but I do know that not a day has gone by since I read the book that some sort of big tech-related problem hasn’t been in the news. New privacy breaches, new abuses of power, and new unintended consequences seem to dominate Techmeme these days, usually in reference to Facebook and Google.

“There’s no app to fix the future,” Keen told the audience. “The only way we fix the future is in a human way.” In the book he says, “technology doesn’t solve technological problems; people do.” It won’t happen overnight, and Keen was upfront about that. “It will take a generation or two, just like it did for the industrial revolution,” he said. “But we have to begin to address it now.”

Andrew Keen

I have since finished reading How to Fix the Future and would recommend it. I think Keen raises some important issues and does indeed provide some thoughtful commentary on potential solutions.

Many in the audience found Keen’s keynote to be a downer, and there were plenty of comments about it being a pessimistic start to the conference. He certainly prompted a lot of discussion among attendees, which is all you can really ask for from a keynote.

But I found myself on common ground. Maybe in the decade since I read his first book I’d become more critical of technology, or at least more aware of the possible negative consequences. Maybe Keen had mellowed somewhat, adopting a more pragmatic approach in the hopes of effecting change. Or maybe, it was a bit of both!

Thank you to Cybera for hosting me at Cyber Summit 2018!