Aug 262014
 

Today I’m spamming the Internet with yet another appeal, this time involving a possible opportunity for this unofficial ambassador to revisit one of my favorite cities: Helsinki, Finland.

There’s no funds or funny stuff required.  Visit Helsinki has arranged a contest where contestants’ photos are displayed in a Facebook media album and all you need to do is Like those of your favorite participant.  In this instance, me.

And in case you need further motivation, as I noted in the previous post here I’m working on a book about maker communities.  One of the coauthors, Jarkko Moilanen, works in Helsinki and I’d like a chance to get with him face-to-face for a bit.  I also hope to interview former Maemo/MeeGo community members (now with Jolla) to get their perspective on collaborative communities.

I have many friends in Finland and several of them have jumped in to help.  But so far it’s not nearly enough– I’m being beaten pretty soundly by another contestant and could use all the assistance I can muster. Continue reading »

Aug 242014
 

By now regular readers know I’m heavily involved in the maker world, particularly in evangelical activities.  One of my main goals for the past three years has been to learn more about the maker experiences around the world, connect makers to opportunities and inform the general public on the reality of makers, hackers, tinkerers or whatever creative types call themselves.

All of this has been a lot of work, especially in my very conservative locale.  Every time I hit some sort of social or functional wall, I think, someone should write a maker community how-to book.

And when a common political rant emerged on the hackerspaces.org general discussion list on that very subject, it all came together for me: *I* should write that book. Continue reading »

Oct 222013
 

appsweepstakes-216x100I’ve urged the Windows Developers in my outreach areas to enter their apps into Microsoft’s Tech Affiliate Sweepstakes on numerous occasions… but I haven’t really gone into just what that is.

The contest of course rewards a few randomly-selected developers and their community leaders each month for app submissions.  There’s a lot more to Tech Affiliate, however, than monthly cash prizes. Continue reading »

Aug 232013
 

I’m behind on publishing some content but an opportunity has come up that trumps just about everything else.  Except beer and pizza.  First the background.

Many of you know that for several years now I’ve been supporting creative communities, both on and offline.  If I really want to date myself then this activity goes back further than I’ll usually admit, to a stint as a writing forum moderator in the heyday of America Online.  Don’t judge: it meant free dial-up.  ;)

As you can see on LinkedIn, my more recent history has gone from Maemo to MeeGo to Windows Phone plus local Makers.  An interesting mix of communities that has helped me understand myriad arguments for and against various platforms and preferences, as well as learn to socialize with creative types from all walks of life.  This understanding has pushed my thinking above and away from the sort of religious dogma that can cripple a project, and in turn helped me (I think) be a really good all-around community leader.  And even as I’ve helped Nokia’s efforts to pull in Windows Phone developers, I’ve kept a watchful eye on Jolla and kept fairly current with Qt developments.  I even assisted Tuukka Ahoniemi with Qt outreach in Dallas (although other activities got in the way, something I would fix if I got this role).

Which leads me back to the opportunity.

Against all odds, I will be interviewing with Digia soon for an Online Community Manager position.  Exciting!  I think I’m the ideal candidate, and so do a few others who have already spoken on my behalf.  But landing this position will take some serious effort: they really want someone situated in Norway, Finland or Berlin.  I have to prove that I can do even better than someone in close proximity.

Now, I’ve done the remote working thing both voluntarily for the aforementioned communities and professionally for Nokia.  I know I can perform this role with the same success.   Heck, I’ve always said I can work from Antarctica as long as I had Internet.  I just need to convince Digia.

To that end, I’m looking to the communities I serve for advice.  What should I emphasize?  In what areas do I still require polish?  Feel free to add comments here.  Be critical if you feel led.  Or contact me privately, too.

I had a similar opportunity with Scarlet Motors at one point, and touched on that in an article about keeping a childlike aspect in communities, but unfortunately they lacked the means at the time to make it a paid position.  The Digia role will be full time, and involves work I love and have been preparing for.  I relish the opportunity to take lessons learned from other communities and see where it will support Qt’s desire for broader adoption.

I really, really want this job.  Your feedback will help, and perhaps so will lobbying Digia.  Make sure to hit Qt Project and Qt by Digia on twitter, as well as their Facebook page.  After all, a good online community manager should mobilize Internet citizens, right?  ;)

Thanks.

Aug 042013
 

In the last community update I included one upcoming hackathon and omitted some promotions.  Time to rectify the latter and expand on the former!

General Promotions

Unity has a new contest going for Windows platforms.  Big prizes involved!  From their website:

Unity and Microsoft are inviting Unity developers to enter a new contest by submitting beautifully crafted, high-quality new or existing games or content for the upcoming Windows Store Apps and Windows Phone 8 platforms. Over $100,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to a number of talented and lucky winners.

Deadline is September 30, 2013.  Get your game on now!

In arandallarnoldddition, Microsoft has created a program slightly similar in goals to Nokia’s DVLUP, called App Builder Rewards.  Might as well double-dip!

Finally, I missed that Microsoft Tech Affiliate had restarted the great APPortunity sweepstakes.  Submit your apps for August ASAP.

Remote/Virtual Hackathons/Events

Nothing to report yet– let me know if you discover any!  In addition to online events, those in any region I cover will be promoted here.

DFW Hackathons/Events

Here’s more info on what’s coming (I will not attend all events and/or all times; more on that as details firm up):

August 2013 NDDNUG Meeting
August 8 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM 2013
5543 Legacy Drive, Plano, TX (MedAssets bldg)
link: http://northdallas.net/location/

August 2013 FWDNUG Meeting
August 20 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM 2013
100 Pier 1 Pl, Fort Worth, TX (Pier 1 Home Office)
link: http://fwdnug2013aug-es2.eventbrite.com/?rank=1

UTD-Microsoft Windows 8 app dev workshop
August 20 9 AM to August 23 5 PM 2013
800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, Texas (University of Texas at Dallas, ECSS 2.412)
link: https://ezpay.utdallas.edu/C20239_ustores/web/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCTID=1055

UNT Startup Primer
September 6 6:00 PM to September 8 6:00 PM, 2013
Sycamore Hall 119, University of North Texas
307 Ave. B, Denton, TX 76201
link: http://untuniontickets.universitytickets.com/user_pages/event.asp?id=187&utm_source=Co-Founder&utm_campaign=CoFoundersLab+08082013

UNT Music Hackathon
September 13 6:30 PM to September 15 8:30 PM 2013
1155 Union Circle #305189 Denton, TX (Innovation Greenhouse)
link: http://innovation.unt.edu/events/september-2013/music-hackathon

20 over 20 Hackathon
September 19 12:00 PM to September 22 4:00 PM 2013 (team announcement September 18)
315 S. Cesar Chavez Blvd, 2nd Floor, Dallas, TX 75201 (Dialexa)
link: http://the20over20.com/

AIGA DFW Hackathon with Open Dallas
September 21 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM 2013
2919 Commerce St, Dallas , TX,
link: http://thecommondesk.com/event/aiga-dfw-hackathon-with-open-dallas/

HackerNest DFW September Tech Social
September 30 8:00 PM 2013
(No location yet)
link: http://www.meetup.com/HackerNestDFW/events/123491032/

LeadingAge Hackfest
October 25 7 PM (optional meetup) to October 27 5 PM 2013
650 Griffin Street, Dallas, TX (Convention Center)
link: http://leadingagehackfest.org/
link: http://www.meetup.com/LeadingAge-HackFest-in-Dallas-Group/events/132040302/

HackerNest DFW November Tech Social
November 25 8:00 PM 2013
(No location yet)
link: http://www.meetup.com/HackerNestDFW/events/123496772/

Others with no firm dates (more details to follow):

Nokia DVLUP Day DFW
August?  September?  2013

UNT Aged Well Hackathon
September 2013

Mobile Monday DFW – Windows Phone App Showcase
October? 2013

Nokiathon DFW
October?  November? 2013

UNT Energy Hackathon
November 2013

Hope to see some of you at one or more of these events!  Again, send me any I may have missed.

Feb 192013
 

I’ve been focusing on building various channels for pushing community content, since I don’t want to force people into one that doesn’t suit them.  I’ll post more on that later.  But what’s kept me from developing this site as I want is a frustrating inability to find a theme that fits my goals.

This needs to be a community-oriented site, supporting the three areas in which I’m involved (Make, Windows Phone, and Qt in no particular order).  But I’m unable to find a ready-made WordPress theme, free or premium, that works.  I’ve tried several dozen with varying degrees of dissatisfaction.

I don’t have time or skill to develop anything, nor can I afford to pay for custom development, so that limits the possibilities.

Essentially I’ll need management of events, developer resources, contests and communications.  I’ve found plugins I believe will support those but I still need a site framework that does.

So… suggestions?

Oct 302012
 

Yesterday I received an email from a Dallas entrepreneur who wondered why he kept seeing my name pop up a lot.  Then today I got a call from a former Nokia colleague following up on a LinkedIn update, wondering what I’ve been up to lately.  So it’s no doubt time for Yet Another Boring Update.

Only it hasn’t been boring for me.  Far from it!  Here’s why, explained by what I am and will be doing, in order of priority:

  • Full time job and family.  Hard to say which really comes first, since I could only go without a full-time job if I had no family.  But I’m stuck with both, and regardless of pecking order they come before all else.  I love working for BNSF Railway and hope that continues as long as I need it to!
  • Nokia developer outreach.  As many already know, since 2005 I have supported Nokia’s business in some form or fashion, and it just got real again.  I am now officially working part-time for my former favorite employer, as a project coordinator with the cooler-sounding label of Nokia Developer Ambassador.  The goal is to get developers cranking on Windows Phone.  I’m currently working on getting my embassy in order.  That would be home office (corner of our bedroom and a tiny spot on a living room table), this website, twitter account, a local meetup site, and various coffee shops around town.
  • Qt.  I can’t give up on this platform, even though I sadly retreated late last year and set it aside.  I’ve been asked by Digia to help with Dallas-area meetups and I believe I can fit that in.  I just hope there’s enough interest!  I’m also eager to find out what’s brewing at Jolla; the new mobile phone manufacturer may offer renewed hope to mobile Qt developers.
  • Tarrant County maker community.  Since returning from the Devaamo Summit in Finland some months ago, full of fire and foolishness, I have been trying to pull together a local maker community.  There’s no shortage of talent and interest in my home county; just little in the way of Big Picture Organization.  That hurdle appears to have been crossed, thanks in large part to Sherry Huss of O’Reilly Media and the visionaries at http://DFWI.org.  A makerspace website has been constructed by the hardworking Robert Bradbury, and the community is taking shape!  There’s synergy with Qt and Windows Phone efforts, which will help minimize my time.
  • Hildon Foundation Board.  This is a new organization chartered to find a future for Nokia’s Maemo assets and community.

I’ve also been helping Scarlet Motors on community-building.  But you’ll notice no specific mention of 3D printing or Tribal Method in that list.

Where the former is concerned, I’m not stopping activity– just reducing it.  3D printing will be a large part of maker community activities, and I’ll still putter with my inventions as I find time.  But it won’t be as high a priority as it has been… unless something changes in the list above.

As for my ventures, aka Tribal Method, I’m putting that on a distant back-burner.  I still have big ideas, and strongly believe one or more of them could create many millionaires, but I continue to struggle in selling my business ideas and building the teams necessary to bring them to life.  Yes, for those in the know that includes Kintegrity, Conkin, unfolo, Resuflex, Cocoa Labs and others.  Maybe at some point I’ll be able to get something going on one or more of them, but it isn’t now.

I’m busy enough.  ;)

Aug 282012
 

“I deal with the customers so the engineers don’t have to.”

As many of you know, I’ve been a Nokia Developer Champion for a couple of years now.  Technically I was one (in deed only) since 2006; Nokia just formalized that with a certificate and a few very nice perks starting in late 2010.

I was brought into the official fold not for coding prowess but rather for Maemo community development.  Which was cool, because that’s where I found the bulk of my volunteer efforts going; there were plenty of others fighting on the coding front and too few fretting over community growth and outreach processes.  And as I explained to some Nokia developer relations guys after a pre-Nokia World get-together last year, there are champion developers, and developer champions.

While I’ve certainly performed my share of miraculous programming feats, these days I’m more of the latter.

Coders have enough to occupy their time without concerning themselves with outreach and evangelism.  Many, I’ve found, have for whatever reason not fully developed the networking skills so necessary to project and product success.  I was a late-bloomer myself, so I understand.  But someone has to act as liaison between the more exceptional programers and the movers/shakers who can make things happen for their creations.

And as Tom Symkowski in the movie Office Space learned, the “go-between” is an often misunderstood and unappreciated role.

While Maemo looked to have a future, and then the same with its successor MeeGo, my form of “meddling” was at least tolerated and sometimes even embraced by the mostly-European community.  Even technical cynics will accept The Devil (aka Marketing) when it’s clear, honest, and useful.

And on that note…

Maemo is gone as a platform.  MeeGo survives in a Nokia-customized form on the N9 and N950, but has no future unless Jolla pulls off a miracle.  And there is nothing in the Nokia pipeline to replace them.

So I’m left with a choice: follow Symbian champions out of the program, or get behind Windows Phone.

While some of my well-meaning friends in Europe see the choice as easy, it isn’t for me.  For one, I’m not so antagonistic toward WP.  Would I prefer to keep supporting Maemo or MeeGo?  Oh HELL yes.  But I’ve been developing for the Windows desktop and server worlds for about two decades now and I’m comfortable there.  That said, Windows Phone development is not as open so I do admit to wrestling with that issue.  If I am patient enough to stick with MeeGo, then that will be in whatever community may develop around Jolla, and Nokia dev champ membership has no relevance.

But here in the US, there are three mobile platform choices: iOS, Android, or WP.

I don’t intend to get into the first two and I’m not going to get into the reasons here.  So that leaves the last (and last place) option.

I’ve helped organize a local (Dallas area) Windows Phone developer group and it’s been steadily growing… so there’s definitely interest.  Even if I don’t write a single line of WP code, I can still help this group with support and networking while I’m an active Nokia Developer Champion.  I’d love to do the same for Qt, but I’ve had no success with that effort so far.

My NDC term expires in October, and what’s announced at this year’s Nokia World event may well determine whether or not I pursue another one.  Of course acceptance is really up to Nokia anyway.

No matter what, my hope is that friends who are opposed to Windows Phone can read this and understand that, although I completely understand and respect their position, I’m hoping they can grit their teeth, hold their noses and at least tolerate mine.

I’m really not sure where I go from here with regards to the mobile landscape.  Maybe I’ll abandon it altogether and put volunteer work into 3D printing wholeheartedly.  Maybe I’ll see what I can do for friends involved with Scarlet Motors.  At this point I’m playing it by ear… and ideas are welcome.

Aug 272012
 

 

Devaamo Summit 2012 attendees (courtesy Jenifer Hanen)
Grinning geek at lower left along with friends. Image source: MsJen’s Flickr

Well, after some amount of begging, finagling, stock-selling and unusually good luck I managed to make it to Devaamo Summit 2012 in beautiful Tampere, Finland. And after some amount of procrastinating and blathering about other subjects, I’m finally managing to share the experience with you.

The Trip Out

Of course not all luck was good. A delay in getting the funds from the stock sale led to less-than-ideal air travel tickets. Which in turn led to being stranded on the DFW airport tarmac for an hour as a hail storm pelted the plane. Which finally resulted in an overall delay of three hours since my connecting flight out of Atlanta ran into equally aggravating weather. Then in Amsterdam my gift to good friend Timo (timoph/timorph) Härkönen of a bottle of Texas hot sauce was confiscated because their security didn’t trust ours. Finally, when I landed at Helsinki Vantaa airport, I realized my new travel guitar had not yet made the trip.

Sigh.

Ultimately it wasn’t all bad, though, as Timo (along with his gracious better half Niina and our mutual friend Carsten Munk) was kind enough to make a two hour trip by car to pick me up at Helsinki Vantaa airport. That was cool. It certainly beat a solo train or bus ride, and if I remember correctly I paid something like 8 euros less for refueling their car than I would have for a train ride. That’s, like, a whole beer.

Timo had taken time off of work, and Niina went off to visit friends and family, so we did the bachelor thing for a few days. Minus strippers and alcohol-induced stunts that is. In all seriousness, Timo is not only a great friend but a truly wonderful host. He made sure I got where I needed to go at all times. And his cool cat Rog kept me good company at night.

Friday

The first day we enjoyed a lazy breakfast during a beautiful morning. Then Timo and I trekked the short distance to New Factory to help set things up and then enjoy a Mer Project “birds of a feather (BoF)” talk conducted by Carsten (stskeeps) along with David (lbt) Greaves. It was a great way to begin as this sort of highly-interactive session loosens participants up and gives them an idea of event nature. A relative to Maemo, the Mer open source mobile device core project is a favorite of mine so it was good to see that it still plugs along (and as we later discovered, will be at the heart of Jolla‘s efforts).

Saturday

The next day was the event proper, and I got roped into session moderator duties by the hard-to-resist Carol (cybette) Chen for the first half. I was a bit nervous at first because I had never done that before and was concerned about what I would say. Those who know I rarely shut up are surely surprised to read that, but it’s true: if I’m not prepared I tend to stutter or blank. Fortunately I made it through without catastrophe.

At lunch time several of us went out to enjoy some delicious Italian fare at the Bella Roma restaurant in the complex. I have to say that the food and service here have been excellent all three times I have been. I really recommend the monster calzones.

I had my own session to conduct after lunch. Intro to 3D Parametric Design had been rejected at first but they managed to find room for me at the last minute. Which meant that I had neglected to put anything together until just before I flew out. That turned out to be an issue; as one reviewer noted, I didn’t cover enough material. We had 30 minutes and I actually wrapped up in 20, unwittingly skipping a few parts of the demo I had planned. I had hoped the audience would ask more questions then the one from the illustrious Henri (bergie) Bergius; what I should have done when none were forthcoming was go back to the demo and play around some more. Ah well… point learned the hard way.

I don’t really need to go into more detail about the event itself, because the reviewer who (rightfully) panned my talk does a really good job of sharing what he experienced.  So does Timur Kristóf.

Party!

After the event wrapped up the traditional party commenced. There was plenty of beer and a local comedian regaled us with some pretty decent jokes. He started in English for the sake of the multinational audience but had to beg off into Finnish after a just a few jokes. Judging from the native response, he did fairly well. Meanwhile I had some great conversations with Lucian (ltomuta) Tomuta, Timur (venemo), Jenifer (msjen) Hanen, Thomas (tbr23) Rucker and others.  See some pictures here.

Henri spent the bulk of the evening trying to get me drunk it seemed. He came close but did not quite succeed. Better luck next time, Bergie!  I just hope your motives are pure.  ;)

Once the party wound down and we had to leave the facility, a good number of us headed off to a park along the river where we battled advancing inebriation and tough Finnish mosquitoes. By this time my travel guitar had completed its traveling and we were reunited. I had brought it solely for songwriting purposes since I’m actually a crappy player, but as it turned out some guy named Sakari (shyoty) Hyöty was highly skilled and entertained a few of us with his playing. I was impressed that he was able to pick up some of my original songs so quickly. He seemed like someone I would love to work with.

Timo and I both tired before most of the crowd so we headed back to his apartment to watch Iron Sky. It was a bit campier than I had thought it would be, but overall I’m impressed with what the low budget production team managed to accomplish with this partially-crowdsourced effort.

Sunday

I had nothing personally scheduled for Sunday so Timo and I took it easy again in the morning. That afternoon we headed back to New Factory for post-event cleanup and a delicious Thank You dinner at Plevna Bewery and Restaurant. Afterward Matti (smoinen) Saastamoinen was kind enough to take me by Timo’s to collect my things and then drop Carol, Timur and I off at the train station. The latter two saw me off as I headed to Helsinki, where I planned to catch a few hours’ nap at Jens (jnwi) Wiik’s apartment before catching a plan out of HEL at the ungodly hour of 6:30 AM. But Jens and I were too wired so we chatted about music, games and Maemo memories before I walked the several blocks to the bus station.

I was sad at the shortness of my stay and how swiftly departure time came, but so glad for the opportunity. Thanks so much to Carol Chen for tirelessly soliciting travel funds for me (I promise I’ll start paying people back soon!) and of course to Timo and Jens for their hospitality. My appreciation also to Timur, Henri, Attila, Jenifer, Thomas, Carsten, David, Lucian, Jukka and other friends for making me feel so welcome! I want to bring you all over here! During cooler weather of course.

There and Back Again

Once back at home and settled into my usual groove, I immediately began missing the Devaamo experience. Here in Texas I’ve attended numerous events of a related nature, but none with quite the same spirit. So I’ve been on a mission the past few years to share that spirit everywhere I go in the hope that it will catch fire here. Texas has lost quite a bit of industry to outsourcing and employees to hotbeds of innovation like Silicon valley; we need to get creative if we are to recapture any of that and take advantage of exploding opportunities like 3D printing.

One of those efforts involving transplanting New Factory itself. To that end, I’ve proposed a local “pre start-up” hackerspace (i.e., collaboration center) as part of a Fort Worth improvement project called Plan 2023. So far it’s been very well-received. But I’m not stopping there: this venue may not turn into anything so if we can’t make this happen via Plan 2023, I’m open to any other means of accomplishing this goal for the Fort Worth area. And I’m looking for help! We held a recent meetup to brainstorm possibilities and that was a good start– let’s keep the momentum going!

There’s no reason the “Devaamo experience” should be limited to Tampere. But I’m looking forward to returning next year!

Mar 012012
 

Update: plans for Tribal Method have changed just a bit.  See the website for details.

Just recently I sat down to share with whoever is interested what I’m up to lately and where I hope to be going.  Instead, the article turned into a screed on introvert exploration.  Which is okay, because it was a topic I wanted to talk about anyway, and with it now out of the way I can try the other bit again.

I’ve rambled quite a bit about my past in other places, mostly at Tabula Crypticum, so no need to dig into that deeply.  But a synopsis is worthwhile still before revealing the new stuff.

At age fifteen I started in the plumbing business, a family obligation.  After ten years of that torture I stumbled into a product design career, my goal at the time, starting with 7 highly educational years at Texas Instruments.  When that ended I bounced around a bit in various technical ventures as US manufacturing outsourcing reduced opportunities for a maker like me.  And after losing a too-short dream opportunity at Nokia I ended up in IT application support.

And that’s really not where I want to be.

I have some ideas, guys.  Some small and easily rendered by myself into something real, and some so big and potentially game-changing in some way that I would need to wrap a sizeable company around them.  They’ve been popping up for decades, and each job change has just opened up more possibilities to explore.

I have so many ideas that I can’t manage them all.  So I’ve tried assembling teams, virtual and local, to get things going.  With very little, if any, success so far.

So most of these ideas are stagnating, which is really eating at me.  But one thought keeps me optimistic.  It’s that I don’t need to be their ultimate owner; I just want to be their launcher.

You see, I’m not as big on monetary gain as I am on accomplishment.  And I’m also a huge believer in the team approach… including team recognition over my own.  Because I was insecure enough as a kid; having outgrown that long ago, I have motivators other than the need for attention.  My biggest satisfaction comes from helping someone else succeed.  And if it’s with the germ of an idea I had, even better!  But I want the attention on the solution and the team that made it happen.

As my ideas accumulated and lingered, I realized I was seeing the same sort of thing I had seen in the Maemo and MeeGo communities: plenty of needs, plenty of people wanting to work on needs, and yet a big gap in execution.  Organization was required, but these were contributors who resisted organization.  After all, that leads to bureaucracies.  Which lead to dead projects.

But then, so does inaction.

I’ve been thinking for some time that a solution to this dilemma would be big.  And every now and then I toyed with creating one.  I know many of the issues: different opinions on best practices, resource fragmentation, etc.  I also know that the answers lie in solving functional disconnects, automation gaps, and similar.  If people can work the way they want, without being burdened by technical obstacles and personality clashes, it’s a lot easier to get them on board a project.  After all, technology is supposed to be an invisible enabler!

With those thoughts in mind, I believe I’m finally pulling a solution together.  Participating in local entrepreneurial, social media and application development groups has really helped.

So yesterday I took out the domain tribalmethod.com.  Because I have this idea that will help me solve the team assembly problem holding back other ideas, and very likely help you, too.  It will work for open source, closed source and gradients in between.  There will be opportunities for recognition, money and whatever else motivates you.  I just could use help developing it.

There’s nothing at the Tribal Method domain… yet.  I’m going to need to assemble a team for that.  A chicken-and-egg dilemma, but hopefully I’ve piqued the interest of the right people.

Hop on board.  Ask anything.  This is going to be fun.  ;)

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