Lightning Thoughts at ENTS

Last night ENTS hosted an event called Lightning Thoughts, an opportunity to share and discuss something inspiring or even just interesting. Each presenter got 5 minutes, followed by a few minutes for questions, though those rules weren’t strictly enforced (it was a pretty casual atmosphere). About 15 people showed up, which is a decent turnout for the first event (ENTS hopes to do it again next month).

Lightning Thoughts at ENTSLightning Thoughts at ENTS

There was a really wide variety of things shown, but here are a few:

  • Ben showed us Swoopo, which is an interesting “entertainment shopping” service. It’s kind of like an auction service, except that you buy bids. It’s a bit shady, really.
  • Eric shared Netvibes, Dropbox, and Delicious. He uses the services, along with Google Apps, to run his portable office. My usage of Delicious has dropped lately thanks to the new “Note in Reader” feature at Google Reader, but I use Dropbox all the time, it’s great.
  • Keith brought his Amazon Kindle 2 and passed it around. I was really blown away by it actually, seeing it in person really makes a difference.
  • Devin showed us Prezi, an awesome Flash-based presentation tool. I’ve seen Devin use it before, but I still haven’t tried it for myself. I must!

Finally, I really enjoyed this inspiring video that Grant shared:

Kudos to Eugene for getting the event off the ground – looking forward to the next one!

ENTS Grand Opening

Tonight was the grand opening of ENTS, the Edmonton New Technology Society. Located just a short walk from downtown at 10575 114 Street, ENTS is “a group of people from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada sharing a collaborative space in Edmonton to teach, learn and work on projects together.” Don’t be confused – ENTS is both a society and a physical space. It’s a place for members of the local tech community (by members of the local tech community) to go to work, socialize, and learn.

ENTS Grand OpeningENTS Grand Opening

The space has come a long way since I last saw it over the summer! Vice-President Rob Davy was our host for the evening. He started in “the middle space” by thanking everyone for coming (over 40 people were there at 7pm, with more coming and going throughout the evening) and gave a brief introduction to ENTS. He then led us to “the orange space” for a virtual ribbon cutting using the Microsoft Surface! The ribbon app was developed by ENTS member Grant Bowering.

ENTS Grand Opening

Bruce, the landlord of the building, cooked free hotdogs for everyone downstairs. I chatted with him a bit, and asked what the most interesting part of the journey with ENTS had been thus far. His reply? “The stuff they bring in…there’s always something else interesting coming in!” Tonight was no exception – about a dozen ENTS members helped move a giant (and very heavy) rack server enclosure up to the space. It was a good team building experience! There was also a “punch-bag revolution”, Rock Band, a sound board, various robots, a Roomba with a netbook strapped to it, and lots of other cool stuff on hand.

ENTS Grand OpeningENTS Grand Opening

The rack server and all of its components came from local social networking company Nexopia. What is ENTS going to do with it? No one is really sure. Like the rest of the tech stuff they have acquired, it’s there for members to learn about and use, if they are creative enough to come up with something. “Think about the potential, and let’s make it happen” is what Rob told everyone.

Congrats to ENTS for a great event and on making the vision a reality! I know there is still work to be done, but they’re now ready for regular use by members (you can become one here). It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

You can see the rest of my photos from the evening here. Follow ENTS on Twitter or search #ents for updates!

Collaboration & Community: Edmonton New Technology Society (ENTS)

Nearly a year ago while in Vancouver I took some time to check out WorkSpace, a shared workspace located in the historic Gastown neighbourhood. I had been reading about the concept for quite a while and after seeing one in action, I knew that I’d get use out of a collaborative workspace (they’re also known as hackerspaces or innovation commons). The ability to have an office without having an office, and to meet and network with other local creatives is just so appealing. I’ve been wishing for one here in Edmonton ever since.

Now, it looks like I’m going to get my wish!

The Edmonton New Technology Society, or ENTS, is a new non-profit organization that is working to bring a collaborative workspace to our city. They’ve come together incredibly quickly over the last couple of months, and while they don’t officially have a space yet, they’re incredibly close. I’ve been quite impressed with the progress they’ve made in such a short amount of time.

The society has seven directors currently: Stephen Olesen (President), Rob Davy (Vice-President), Eric Warnke, Graham Batty, Matt Mercer, Jeff O’Toole, and Don Egliniski. Roughly 55 people have joined the society so far, paying a nominal $20 membership fee. As Graham told me, “this project will be nothing without people engaged and interested,” so that’s been a big focus for the group. They’ve made use of both social media and face-to-face gatherings to spur interest. Stephen says that “Twitter has certainly been one of the largest driving factors in informing people and getting to know the majority of members.” Early discussions used the hashtag #yegspace, but they’ve since switched to #ents. You can follow ENTS on Twitter here.

ENTS held its first AGM on June 7th, and has hosted a number of informal gatherings since. Rob and a few of the other directors presented ENTS at BarCamp last month, and Wings Nights have been popular. The most recent took place on Tuesday at the Elephant & Castle downtown which about 30 people attended.

ENTS Wings NightFree beer! London Pride

Another focus has been finding a space. It is on this task that the group’s commitment to allowing the members to drive things is most evident. They polled their members and quickly found that office space wouldn’t be enough – members wanted a “dirty” place to work too, so that they could experiment with hardware, robotics, etc. The space they’ve found fits both needs perfectly. Located at 10575 114th street, it is already nicely separated. Here’s the office space:

And here’s the dirty space:

You can see more photos of the space here. They’ve done a few tours already, so a number of the members have already seen it. If all goes well, ENTS should be moving in by the end of the month (and will need help with that so feel free to volunteer).

Both Eric and Stephen agreed that financing the project has been one of the biggest challenges. In addition to collecting membership fees, ENTS has been actively seeking projects and partners to help raise money. They found a powerful ally in the City of Edmonton IT branch recently:

The City of Edmonton is looking to have ENTS host some exciting events within the Edmonton technical community. The City of Edmonton is committed to supporting us in our core goals of social collaboration and innovation within Edmonton, and we’re very glad to have the support of the city in our endeavours.

I’d say that’s more proof that the City’s IT branch is transforming for the better. I’m excited to see what ENTS can accomplish with the events, and I’ve offered to help where I can.

Finally, I asked the directors what they hoped to accomplish with ENTS. I like what Eric had to say:

We’re all about collaboration, it’s in our mission. We want to foster the tech community in Edmonton and give people the opportunity to learn something new while teaching others what they already know. We’re about making Edmonton a better place through technology.

If you’d like to join ENTS, fill out the membership application online. For the latest news and updates, check out their blog and Twitter feed. They’ve also got forums and a wiki.

Congratulations to ENTS on everything they’ve been able to accomplish thus far! I’m really looking forward to seeing the society grow and evolve, and to being able to use the space of course.