It was on Saturday 9th May and I'd just returned from a chaotic week in Germany. It was full of passionate people trying to work out what could be done to help sustainability, but by the end of the day I was getting rather frustrated with how we were defining the Manifesto for Change by what we were against, rather than looking for aspirational and more positive directions to channel our energies. Sadly I was wiped out after my week away (where I'd also acquired a cold) and so wasn't up to engaging with my fellow attendees, so I just retracted into my digital shell and heckled them electronically.
Before reaching that point, however, I did present some thoughts about the growing co-working and hackspace scenes. The flexible working and community-building that seems to come with such spaces could fall easily into a more sustainable way of working. And to meet my aforementioned aspirational and positive approach I even ended with a rather grand vision for how such a movement might evolve here in Liverpool.
I'll leave anyone interested to find more details by reading through my slides, but by all means get in touch if you'd like to know more...
There are notes with the slides, but they don't seem to have come out in the Slideshare presentation. If you download the Powerpoint deck for the slides you'll be able to get an idea of what I was talking about when giving the presentation.
On Saturday 23rd May, a collection of about thirty geeks, coders, artists and complete novices took over the Gallery 1 space at FACT for a day of learning about hardware hacking and working on interesting projects to fuse computing power with the real world.
Howduino was an event hatched up by Thom Shannon and me, and the space at FACT was a perfect location for it. There was a big screen where I ran my "Getting started with Arduino" talk, and plenty of big work tables where people could spread out their tools, soldering irons, laptops and projects as they worked on them.
We weren't quite sure what to expect, given the wide range of abilities from the attendees (from the architecture students who had no knowledge but lots of enthusiasm, to the similarly enthusiastic but much more experienced Aaron from .:oomlout:.) but after a quick run round the room for everyone to introduce themselves, people seemed to find groups to work in and share knowledge.
I think our use of the wiki before the event was vital, as it meant that people had an idea about what projects were available to be tackled, which helped us organise people into groups - we had a quick "hands up if you're interested in X" for each project on the wiki, and then people could find each other afterwards to get started. It also meant that people could work out what components they'd need beforehand, and so come prepared.
By mid-afternoon there was a real buzz in the air, as people helped each other out, traded parts and some real progress was being made by on the projects. It seemed a shame to break up such a productive community, which meant that we left it a bit too late to start wrapping up the day. That was my biggest regret - we didn't get chance to share what everyone had achieved during the event, but it's been great to see the blog posts filtering out over the following weeks as things get finished.
That also meant it was hard to work out what to do about the prizes we had. The guys from O'Reilly who I met at Maker Faire had very generously sent us some book vouchers, t-shirts and an i-Sobot robot, and initially we'd planned to have a number of categories for "Best project", "Most ambitious project", "Most components killed in the pursuit of hardware hacking", etc. However, as most projects were group efforts, and the groups were formed by people who'd only met on the day, it seemed a bit hard to work out who would get the prize; so in the end we held a raffle amongst all the attendees. It seemed to fit the collaborative, helping-each-other-to-achieve-cool-things vibe to the day.
It also means I don't have an easy way to run through what was built on the day, so I'll just list them as I remember them (and include links where I can). We had...
What could we have done better?
The biggest problem with any hackday is the amount of time you have. Ideally we'd make Howduino a weekend event, as that would give people time to get something significant finished. I'd also see if there's a more hands-on way to get people started wth Arduinos. Maybe I could give a shortened version of my talk, so people could get the basics and then get started on a project; but also have a longer, more practical session for people who wanted a bit more hand-holding through getting things working. And maybe run a "driving motors with H-bridges" session, as lots of people were trying to do that, and possibly combine that, or run it just after, a session to harvest stepper motors from old printers or floppy drives.
We're just back from a fantastic week's holiday on the north Cornwall coast. A group of thirteen of us (ten adults, two kids, a baby and two dogs) rented Trelawny, a gorgeous big old house right on the coast in Widemouth Bay.
Apart from a day-trip to the Eden Project, the furthest we ventured all week were the ice-cream parlours of Bude, a couple of minutes drive up the coast. The rest of the time was spent chilling out at the house, over the road (literally) on the beach, or indulging in a spot of sea-kayaking.
The house swallowed us all with ease, even though Rebecca and I were on the sofa-bed in one of the lounges, and there was still plenty of space for people to do their own thing without it getting at all claustrophobic.
Highly recommended if you're looking for somewhere for a big group holiday.