Organizing the Waterloo Mini Maker Faire

Organizing the Waterloo Mini Maker Faire


June 15 at Kitchener City Hall, a large group of folks (including myself) organized and ran the region’s first ever Maker Faire, the Waterloo Mini Maker Faire. For those of you unaware of the Maker Faire phenomena, they are basically large, creative, do-it-yourself festivals, where folks come together to show off their creations, share their passion for their hobbies and interests, and for some, to sell things and make some money. A quick Google image search shows just how crazy and imaginative Maker Faires can be. Read more

Community Gardening

Community Gardening

Eight months ago my little family moved back to Waterloo, into an older home. It’s not that old, but old enough that some work needs to be done. The neighborhood is slowly turning over as the older generation that were the first occupants move out, and we are just settling into one of those homes. I also gave up my first garden and now have none. While I would love to have put together a new vegetable patch as soon as spring sprung this year, my conscience couldn’t as there is a lot of other yard work that needed to be done first. I hope to start one again next year. That being said, we are still growing potatoes in our old maple syrup containers, gardening is still happening at home, just in a really limited capacity. But I am still left with two little kids who like to garden and have to go to Grandma’s to get their fix.

So after a lot of research(I contacted and viewed almost every place in Waterloo on that list), I joined the University of Waterloo’s community garden. It is free for a patch of dirt up next to the greenhouses in the North Campus. I was kind of disappointed in the City of Waterloo. Both Kitchener and Cambridge run many community gardens, while Waterloo has none. There are some run by churches, senior homes, and co-ops in Waterloo, but you either have to worship or live there to get a plot. I think the University of Waterloo’s community garden is kind of forgotten, and easy to get a plot in. Best of all it was free.

Surrounded by wildflowers and weeds, it is a very peaceful spot in the North Campus.

One thing I have to adjust to and learn about is working with very clay-like soil. In my old garden I built up the soil into some amazing stuff. Soft and yielding, whereas here it is very hard and unforgiving. I was warned that green, leafy vegetables seem to do well but root crops do not.

Here I am inspecting the tomato plants for suckers to pinch off while my son hoes a new path.

In go the cucumber seeds.

Now we’ve moved on to planting some corn.

I am always amazed at how patient my kids are when they are planting seeds. Kids who are otherwise bouncing off the walls are more than happy to crouch down and fiddle with tiny seeds and stick them in the ground.

It is a very short bike ride from my office to go check on the plants during my lunch, which I do from time to time. I am treating this year as an experiment. I am not expecting to get any yield, I am trying to just grow anything, and give my kids a place to play in the dirt with their dad.

Ignite Waterloo 9 – Zen of Gardening – Preparing for my talk and thoughts about Ignite/Tedx

I gave a talk at Tuesday Night’s (June 12, 2012) Ignite Waterloo event (#IW9 on Twitter).

I had watched the Ignite Talks online, but never attended in person. Many familiar faces had given talks in the past, so it kind of compelled me to try as well. I also enjoy public speaking, so I decided I would give it a shot, submit a topic, and see what happens. I was lucky enough to be accepted.

I started off preparing by basically writing a speech, took me a couple days (I must note, when I do creative writing it happens in fits and bursts, it was probably all of two hour’s effort, but spread out over two days), and once I got it to ‘good enough’, I read it through. With any talk I have given in the past, preparation has been key, but at the same time, a speech always sounds better on paper/in your head than it does when you read it aloud, so at some point you need to stop and try reading it to yourself [Word file]. First time through reading it I spoke for 15 minutes. Apparently I can talk a lot about things I am passionate about. I remember thinking/tweeting that hour-long talks with props seemed easier to prepare for at this point. It was then it dawned upon me how the 20-slide, five-minute format was going to be difficult.

I then switched gears and tried to find 20 slides that lined up with the key points I was going to make. This proved equally difficult, trying to find a visual format that worked with the rest of the presentation and still conveyed/carried the narrative. As well, I had to ensure I was using slides that were also timed to the points I was trying to make.

I also had to throw some humor in there. I felt it was a necessity for an Ignite event. I actually felt that there were several key components to a successful Ignite talk (in order of what I perceive to be most to least important):

  • Passion/knowledge of your topic
  • Humor
  • Personal component with some humility
  • Emotion (just a little)

In the end, the talk development process was a very back-and-forth process. Work on my points, find slides, evolve the talk some more. Repeat. I ended up with two lines of scripted material maximum for each slide with some room for ad-libbing (more on that in a moment).

I rehearsed it about 3 dozen times total. Most of the practice came from the day before the slides were due to the Ignite folks. By that point I knew my material well from all the effort I put into preparation, it was just the timing that needed to be rehearsed. I set up my slides to do the 15-second auto-forward thing and just read it through repeatedly. During this process there were points where I kept stumbling over, and about 3 of the 20 slides and their corresponding points ended up being changed completely.

The final talk looked like nothing I had written initially. This turned out to be extremely beneficial, by this point I more or less had my talk memorized and timed well, and the extra unused content would make it easy for me to ad-lib things so once I got a feel for the room and the flow of the talk during the presentation I was able to adapt and change it up quite easily.

The talk itself flew by. I actually have very little recollection of what I said. I was hoping the live stream would be available to review immediately after the event, but alas, it was not, I shall have to wait for the final, edited content to be posted online. My favorite part was talking with all the presenters after the fact, it was an amazing array of people and I was genuinely enthusiastic about trying to meet each one.

My favorite presentation was the My Little Ponies one. I have not laughed so hard in a long time. Although I do feel an opportunity for some big laughs was missed by not mentioning the Clop Clop subreddit. (Google it, but not while at work)

Now, about Ignite and TedxWaterloo.

I tweeted that I thought Ignite Waterloo is what TedxWaterloo should aspire to be. Don’t get me wrong, both are fantastic events, and I love my experiences with both dearly, and I definitely do not think one event is better than the other.

Upon more reflection I think I may have been a little wrong in some aspects of that statement, but I do see a need for some cross-pollination of ideas and themes, and possibly for a new event to form.

From my perspective, Tedx is supposed to bring in great speakers with great ideas that you may not have exposure to locally, while Ignite is local speakers passionate about specific topics, with someĀ irreverence thrown in. Now, I feel as though many of the speakers at Ignite were treating it like a Tedx audition, basically drying up some of the humor. Not that that is a bad thing, but there does seem to be a bit of a cultural shift in the presentation styles when you look at the individual Ignite events chronologically. This is a huge compliment to the Tedx phenomenon, but I feel there is still room for different styles of talks and presentations outside of Tedx. Tedx does have a monopoly on big ideas right now, but it doesn’t have a monopoly on fun.

The one area I do still feel Ignite does better than Tedx is in its overall event format. Tedx does seem to drag on over the course of the day, and I think it’s noticeable when you see the theatre packed at the start of the day and by the third session it is obviously starting to empty. With Ignite, I felt it’s machine-gun approach definitely got my creative juices flowing and inspired me to do more.

Overall, there seems to be a void developing for humorous talks. That is my way of observing that Ignite used to be funnier and Tedx is a little dry. During coffee one day with Ramy Nassar he threw out the idea (and I’ve helped to spread it since) of Ignite Roulette. Preselected speakers are paired with slide decks they’ve never seen before and try to make up a talk of it on the spot. This may be the type of event we need.

June 19, 2012 Edit:

Talks from #IW9 are now online!

I am also including a link to my original draft that took me 15 minutes to read through [Word file]. Compared to the video of my presentation embedded below, it’s a pretty different talk from what I ended up giving.

Some photos of the event courtesy of James Bastow (@jamesbastow on Twitter)

Oh, and here I am: