Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Bringing Art and Technology Together

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 12:08 -- rprice

A few years ago, I had an idea to make the kind of conference I'd like to attend. Turns out the Art and Algorithms event in Titusville looked like a really great version, but I didn't get the chance to check it out. When I go to BarCamps and other similar events, I often advise people to decide on their mission, and who their audience is before they start a new project, so here is my shot at it:

BATT Mission

BATT[south] because maybe there would be other regional events...?

Another thing I am always advising people to do is to become the expert. If you think there is an audience who will appreciate some product or service you want to make, then one way to locate them is to start a blog, a podcast, a pinterest board, a delicious feed, etc related to that subject. My default mode is a podcast, so I recruited a good friend of mine, Kathryn Neel AKA the Resident Wizard at Urban ReThink, to co-host the show with me.

We just published our 5th episode, which is a round-up of 5 quick interviews I did at the 2nd Orlando Mini Maker Faire. It's a very inspiring event and something I would not miss, and Kathryn missed a lot of it, as she was working, so I think it was a good conversation.

BATT Podcast 4: Orlando Mini Maker Faire


Download MP3
Download OGG

We have a good start here, and a couple of people supporting us and asking for more would encourage us to keep it going.

I'd also love to organize an unconference along this theme, so let me know if you have ideas there as well.

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Calendars for All Occasions - my 2013 Florida DrupalCamp talk

Fri, 10/04/2013 - 18:25 -- rprice

Back in April we had our 5th Florida DrupalCamp, which was a really awesome event organized by a huge team of volunteers. I had a talk about putting Calendar information in Drupal, which is kind of my thing.

I actually started with some Q&A, which is a Tummeler's way of doing it. I tried to speak to a pretty low common denominator, and I really appreciate that someone was able to record and upload these.

I als have slides from this presentation on SlideShare:

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Getting a Web Slideshow Kiosk on the lobby TV

Fri, 08/02/2013 - 10:51 -- rprice

Chromecast is a new invention by the boys down in Google R&D (think of saying that in an old timey radio announcer vocie). It'll revolutionize the intertelevisiontubes!

For quite some time now I've had an interest in kiosks that show event information from my big clients' website on a television. They are a big performing arts center and they have all of this great event information in their website. With "Proctors TV" we let them push pictures, videos, and sponsored advertising slides to 3 forty-or-fifty-inch screens in the lobby of their building. They can also run the slideshow on a big projector in their atrium. This has been a great tool for them, and much easier than baking out a video to a DVD or updating a crazy powerpoint slideshow, because it can update itself as events end and sell out, and the web master only has to make sure the information is up-to-date and accurate.

Untitled 012220101039 012220101036

Originally, we used a Mac Mini in the server closet hooked up to a rasterizer box that would allow them to add the Proctors TV signal to their CCTV signal inside the building. Channel 1 shows what's happening back stage, Channel 2 shows the hallway to the dressing rooms, etc but one channel is dedicated to Proctors TV. This means all the TVs must show the same signal, but it's a really cool system.

TV in front of McKnight Hall

Now another client is asking for a similar system, but they have multiple venues, and they really only want a few items pertaining to the local venue, not every event at all 12+ venues. The challenge becomes outfitting 10 or 12 of these TV displays on a bit of a budget. I've been researching different hardware options that will cheaply drive a display, and in my opinion the Logitech Revue or the VIZIO Co-Star Google TV boxes are a really great option - especially because they run stand-alone, they can be plugged in to Ethernet, and they come with their own hardware keyboard for typing web addresses.

In the Google TV box, the web browser is the #1 feature that had been setting it apart from devices like the AppleTV and the Roku - neither of which is capable of running a simple web page, stand-alone, without my device having to be in the room at the same time.

However, at the Coworking space, we often hold videoconferences in addition to the slide show functionality, and there was not a fantastic way to get a video chat onto the big screen (let alone the projector) until now. We also thought about mounting a projector in the ceiling in the conference room, but then the question always became how to get content up there without an unsightly umbilical cord of wires coming out of the sky, as our conference room setup didn't really have a good place to run wires to the wall. The Chromecast comes to the rescue!

The big question became how to get a video chat on to the Chromecast - that meant it had to be browser-based. Any desktop computer running Chrome and the GoogleCast plugin could send the contents of a tab to the TV, but when we tried to launch a Google Hanout, it openend in a new window, and the button for Chromecast didn't appear. 

I realized Web RTC would probably do the trick, as long as I only wanted to talk to one other person. We found a WebRTC demo on Google App Engine that was very promising, but Hangouts just has so many more features...

After asking the smart folks of the Internet, a gentleman named Tom suggested another Chrome plugin called Join Tabs that combined all your open windows, which re-started the hangout, but brought it in to the main window where the Chromecast button appears.

Not that these videos are the best made on the planet, but hopefully it gets the idea across that you can use the Chromecast and the Google Cast technology to create the all-in-one TV magic kiosk you've been praying for with a dumb TV, a few Chrome extensions and $35 for an HDMI stick.

I also want to plug a game in the Chrome store called Crimson: Steam Pirates that plays pretty well over the TV. The lag is too great to play only on the TV, but the interesting thing was that the sound only played back from the TV speakers as opposed to on both the browser and the TV. I had fun showing off this turn-based game to some friends while we explored the capabilities of the Chromecast.

If you consider that Google is touting the Chromebook Pixel as the only laptop most people need, I would say that a Chromecast stick should come standard with every unit they sell now.

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Flying Through the Air Like Invisible Frisbees

Fri, 05/10/2013 - 17:04 -- rprice

The title of this post is a quote from Brad Kuhn, the author of an article about Craig Ustler, the Creative Village, and Urban ReThink. I found the line so nonsensically entertaining that I decided my next endeavor would pay homage to his coined phrase. The invisible frisbee in his article was referring to e-commerce. Is there any commerce today that is not e-commerce on some level?

Anyway, I took the phrase and eventually made it my own. For me the Invisible Frisbee is inspiration. The way that it gets passed along, often unintentionally.

I have not posted on this blog since November because I've been a busy beaver, working on my first-ever theatrical production, an improvised show based on the book The 39 Steps.

The idea came to me when two slow hunches rubbed against each other (to use Stephen Johnson's phraseology) to form a new baby, the semi-scripted, semi-improvised version of this classic spy story, where we have a different lead actor every night, and Richard Hannay's journey takes him to a different place for the same unknown reason - chasing the MacGuffin.

I have been documenting this process in some detail in two places:

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen either or both of these mentioned. We have recorded a new episode of BATT IDEAS that should be coming out any day now that I'm sure goes toward a similar end.

If you're near Orlando in the last 2 weeks of May, I highly encourage you to attend as much of the Orlando Fringe Festival as you can. Specifically, my show, The 39 Steps is playing seven times throughout the fesival, we are having a Florida Creatives Happy Hour Wednesday May 22nd, and I will be participating in a Pecha Kucha Night during Fringe on Thursday May 23rd.

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NYC World Maker Faire 2012

Sun, 09/30/2012 - 10:20 -- rprice

Thanks to my awesome job in Schenectady, I was able to manage traveling to NY the week before Maker Faire. Thanks to a great group of friends and connections, I was able to wrangle a free place to stay in Brooklyn (Williamsburg). There was a truly excellent food market there on Saturday morning, so I stopped in to see people serving cold concentrated coffee, raw kale chips, brown butter cookies, and artisan hash browns, of all things. There were lots more booths, but those were the ones where I spent my money. I made a background sound of the market, which I might try to use in a podcast if it comes up... we'll see.

On to Maker Faire, and the World!

At this time, I've only comlpeted day 1 of the faire - I'm currently uploading photos for this post and recuperating a bit after the party at Resistor... but I'm getting ahead of myself. To begin at the beginning. Maker Faire is such a great place for families - not because many of the exhibitors try very hard to make their booth kid friendly, but because their brains are so plastic and their sense of adventure often rivals that of many of the people making things. Don't get me wrong, the Faire organizers have tons of great activites for kids set up - which is one of the first things I saw upon arriving.

On my way down from the train I ran into some lost people holding MF tickets and I pointed them in the right direction. It was the aunt and uncle of a 12 year old boy named Julian who had come down from Troy - he had made all the arrangements and rode for the first time on the Amtrak by himself to come here. We talked about Blender, Python, Processing and Linux a little bit on the way to the Faire. Once we had our tickets, I had the impulse to hand him a business card, like I would any other new person I just met. I asked him to let me know what he was working on. Hopefully this event inspires thousands more like him, and at the very least creates a generation that is not as afraid of technology, science, math and engineering.

It's really hard to point to things that were cool, because there were just so many! In the craft area (sponsored by Bust magazine, I think) there was a vendor selling space-inspired jewelery. I heard (and saw) a guy using a bicycle wheel with cassette tape on it as a DJ scratching interface, and beatbozing along. Kids would not stop touching it long enough for him to show how it worked. Another sound byte recorded.

Wandered around until I found some robots that can see with OpenCV, including one from IBM that takes readings all around your data center, right next to...

IMAG1487

OpenROV, the underwater robot! So cool, and really pretty light - I offered to have them come do a talk at Urban ReThink, at which point I heard "I'd love to, but I'm moving to Antarctica for 3 months". I guess being passionate about ocean exploration has its downsides.

I then started exploring the "Tiny Town" (to steal from Merlin Mann) of Maker Faire - many of the people had the money to produce their product en masse but they were collecting email addresses and determining if they could make a go of it. Lots of cool projects here, like OWL, which is a home sensing device that can run for 2-3 years on a watch battery - sadly it speaks a proprietary signal, but if it improves my life I might be able to allow it.

Then one of the highlights of my day arrived when I was wandering through the Maker Shed tent and I saw Mark Fraunfelder, Matt Richardson, and Eric Chu from Make Zine sitting there playing with a small project. I asked Mark if I could get a photo with him, but once he saw that I had a 3D phone, he asked for another. I told him it really works better with video, so...

Achievement Unlocked! Meet an editor of BoingBoing and Make Magazine, and a really great book.

After that, I saw some more tinytown stuff, including the really tiny town where they did not get a nice tent, like most of the Hackerspaces in New England, and a few 3D printers, designers and robot makers.

Brainwave-powered PONG: epic.

So much more to say, but if you want to know more, here are the photos:

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On Having a Google TV

Thu, 08/09/2012 - 01:17 -- rprice

I am an Android guy. After owning a Nokia N96 and an iPod touch at the same time, upgrading to the HTC EVO was like the best of both worlds. Always-on connection plus awesome music and podcasting client. In order to test out web pages I also purchased a Toshiba Thrive 10". Last but not least, since I develop web pages to be viewed on televisions, I thought a Sony Google TV box would round out my Android collection nicely. At this point, I don't really use the Google Play Books or Movies all that much. The music service is pretty useful when my NAS is not working, but still leaves something to be desired.

One of the biggest problems with owning a Google TV is the NETWORKS. While many Cable or over-the-air TV networks have caught on with the smartphone, set-top-box (some would say under-set-box, or set-side-box) revolution, for some reason they don't want to let Google TV users play stuff directly through their box. Some of their websites will let you use them on Google TV. Most won't. Many blog posts have been written quoting the message about how Hulu is "working hard" to bring their content to Google TV. I call shenanigans.

Then today, I see this tweet, and leave the following reply:

If TV is one of the next great battlegrounds, then it seems like Apple, even with their crippled little hockey puck, is still beating Google. Can they figure this out already? What with the Google Fiber TV service and all the content deals on the mobile devices, the one that's plugged into the wall is still a second-class citizen. I don't get it.

EDIT:

Don't believe me that TV is (one of) the next battleground(s)? Look at some of these kickstarter projects that plug in to a TV:

EDIT: Phil left this in the comments: http://androidtvbox.us/ proving my point further. Also on Amazon: G-Box HD Android Box

That's just on Kickstarter. The TV makes sense because the cost of adoption (not just monetarily) is incredibly low. We all upgraded our sets, built rooms around TVs and entertainment systems, and are starting to make sure the TV can connect to the home network. Now the innovators step in, after all the hard stuff is done. It would have been so hard to put together an open source gaming console in a pre-Android, pre-Raspberry Pi and pre-smart-tv world.

Has the Google TV brought new content into my living room? Undoubtedly. A few apps like Crunchyroll, Clicker and NFB Films have definitely helped, and the built-in directory of TV-friendly websites, Spotlight, is always a great place to browse. The fact that this thing has a full web browser and Flash player is a huge boon, although it has also been a bane in the past.

Lately, however, certain apps have been reporting that their latest updated versions won't work on my Google TV, like Google's official Play Music app, and the aforementioned Crunchyroll. It brings a tear to my eye.

One unexpected benefit of the box is that it makes a great phone charger. The USB port on the front is nice to have - one less charger to keep track of, and if I really want to show someone a few photos or videos from a memory card, I can plug the reader in there.

Presumably the newer Google TV "buddy boxes" like the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player have gotten an updated interface, at least in the remote control department. Having used the keyboard control of the Logitech Revue, I found that I much preferred my game-controller style keyboard, but the latest offering from Sony (and Vizio as well) is more old-school-tevelision-remote-like. If you get tired of the controllers you can always use the remote app for your Android or iPhone. It works really well, especially if you're already used to typing on your phone.

After saying all that, would I still recommend a Roku or Apple TV? Not instead of a laptop with an HDMI port. That is still the king of all home media devices, and probably will remain so until Microsoft cripples the HDMI port or the TV networks figure out how to in existing operating systems.

What sort of a "buddy box" or other Home Theatre PC setup have you been using? Were you able to watch any Olympics on it? HBO? Hulu? Enjoyable Games? Not on a Google TV.

We know they all do Netflix, but there are few other common denominators. This post would have been very different a few months ago, before YouTube movie rentals. Now they are on pretty even footing.

On the other hand... What about Web pages? Installable apps? Amazon Instant Video? Pandora? Google TV shines for these. And I use several off these features every day.

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Taking a turn for the Better

Wed, 06/20/2012 - 09:15 -- rprice

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about what was shakin' in the Orlando tech scene. One of the things I mentioned was the looming appearance of Hilary Mason at Urban ReThink. If you did not get a chance to check out her talk that day, here you go:

If you ask me, this was about 20% of the whole experience. Urban ReThink's core of Resident Creatives, as well as sponsors of the event, like our friends at Tawlk and DrupalEasy were treated to locally-sourced hamburgers at Pine22, one of my favorite places in Orlando, and I hope it's one of Hilary's favorites as well.

One of my favorite moments of that day was when I was given the opportunity to drive Ms. Mason back to the airport on her way out of town and just as she was about to leave the car, I said, in a very matter of fact way, "so how did you guys raise all that money for HackNY?" that required another loop around OIA's circle. :)

She said, "we got on the phone with the Kaufmann Foundation and didn't hang up until they agreed to give us the money". It was more complex than that, of course, but with that seed funding and their foot in the door, raising the second year's funding was that much easier. In fact, the students were charged with organizing a lot of the future fundraising because it became that much more possible, I guess.

I don't know how greatly I can emphasize the importance of the events of the past few years. All the groundwork has been laid. All the right people are here. The wind may even be blowing in the right direction. When I see people like Kathryn Neel, Dave Casey, and Lance Vick showing up on the scene, and so many others like my old friends Darren McDaniel and Jud French seeing their dreams of the past years crystalize and spark new growth, it just convinces me that now is the right time.

Who or what is interesting to you right now? I am gearing up to start pushing out some new podcasts, and I'd love to know who to talk to next.

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Stop on a Dime, Pivot, Take a Deep Breath, Keep Moving

Sat, 05/05/2012 - 01:31 -- rprice

Hilary Mason will be giving a talk at Urban ReThink tomorrow.

This is definitely a defining moment in the history of Orlando's creative / tech / entrepreneurial scene. This is something I've been working on personally, along with hundreds of others, for what feels like forever now. That, or 7 years, whichever comes first.

Interlude:

A few years ago, I was in the right place at the right time to be able to hold an unconference during the Create Chaos event. (Big thanks to Katrina Diamond and Dana Delapi for the opportunity.)

I bring up BarCamp Chaos because it was capitalizing on a huge opportunity we have in Orlando - it is such an awesome destination - 50+ million visitors come here every year for pleasure, conventions, training, or to escape the snow. Major publications' travel columns have been picking up on the better qualities of the rest of Orlando (the part outside of Touristan) for some time now, like this week in New York Magazine. The locals know about all the cool culture in Orlando, and the rest of the world is starting to learn about it too. Now it's time for the Creatives to gain awareness in the wide world alongside the neighborhoods.

Today two people visited Urban ReThink from Kitchener/Waterloo in Canada - it's a well-known technology hub, but these two folks (one of whom works at an incubator with 50+ startup companies) thought they had something to learn from us. I fully intend to follow up on that meeting and keep the relationship alive. We have also had reporters from Brazil, Japan, Australia and other parts of the country ask us questions about Urban ReThink and what is going on here. While they are asking about UR, they are just asking because that's one of the few things they can see through the pin-prick-sized aperture they have to look at Orlando's creative scene.

When I say "this is going to be a turning point", I don't just mean Hilary's talk, but I also do mean Hilary's talk.

Not to put an undue amount of pressure on her, but I'm going to use her as an example.

For example, Hilary is on a technology advisory board for Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. She has also given keynote presentations in front of thousands of people, or in front of a few people who can afford a more intimate setting. If she has something nice to say about Orlando, it will be hard to measure the exact impact of her report, but I promise you it will have an impact. One theme that comes up over and over in my life is that the world is a very small place and technology is making ii smaller by the minute.

Should I be writing this? It sounds like we are trying to use someone who we are having as a guest to get something we want. That's not how I see it. This is more of a "you get out what you put in" or "if you make yourself available" or something like that. I have nothing directly to gain from this event other than getting to meet someone I admire and respect. Beyond that I'm happy to know everyone else is having a good time, and last but not least that we have raised a few dollars for the Urban Think Foundation.

I could just as easily write about my excitement in discovering Lance Vick at BarCampMiami - "this guy is going to put Orlando on the map", I said to myself at some point. Hopefully he will help open the aperture the rest of the world has to see Orlando in the process.

Yet another reason why tomorrow's event is kind of a big deal has to do with the idea of making events like this recurring - maybe we bring Hilary back, maybe other special guests, maybe we start up the Creative Summit after the idea has been laying on the back burner for so long. There are lots of paths to take from this point, which is no different from most of the rest of life. Except this time there is an amazing group of people helping out.

Curtis, Steve, Puja, Ken, Elizabeth, Darren, Dina, Pat, Kathryn and so many others have all been pulling together to make Sunday's event and the ongoing Tech Thursdays at Urban ReThink really special. This simply would not have been possible in the old days. At some point in the last month I realized that we had crossed some major milestones in the health of our community when we were able to pull together events like this and Florida Drupal Camp in our free time, while raising money from sponsors, bringing in awesome speakers from out of town like Jason Pamental, skyping in creators from all over the world and our own backyard, and creating new events like Drupal Coworking Fridays here in Orlando that have spread across the globe.

Are there other things I would like to see? Sure. But that's always the case. The moment I have everything I ever wanted for the community, then my vision must have stopped growing. Not that I have all the answers - we steal from the best.

Then today I was talking to Tony from Kitchener and I realized something that made events like Startup Weekend and the Orlando Fringe Festival so very important to me - they both honor and encourage the same kind of collaboration and experimentation. Startup Weekend is, by defenition, fleeting. You don't really have enough time to do anything but generate a great pitch for your startup, and all of the prerequisites, which are numerous. Similarly, at Fringe, after 7 performances, no matter what, you are done with that show.

  • The investment is small - more of your time than anything, and revisions are cheap.
  • The audience knows what they are getting in to - early adopters, patrons, peers, and true fans.
  • The friendships you make, particularly with other teams, can make a long-lasting change in your life, and in this way you can grow a global network.
  • As a creative, you get to see what is on the cutting edge in your community, or where the local talent pool is rooted.
  • There is just enough potential for fame and fortune to make it glamourous.
  • The creme-de-la-creme will go on to be real jobs and new careers. The others are awesome learning experiences.
  • You get to work outside your comfort zone, if that's what you want. (trust me, you want it)
  • I could go on...

This is certainly a rant-heavy blog post, so wrapping up will be a bit challenging. Here's a shot:

At BarCamp Orlando last month, I encouraged Urban ReThink's Resident Wizard, Kathryn Neel, to give a talk called "Not the next Silicon Valley, the first Orlando". She actually did an amazing job, and far exeeded what I could have done with it. She also got a lot of great feedback and well-deserved adulation after the talk. The point is that all the ingredients for making Orlando a first-class city are out there, we just need to tap into them - our number one problem is likely more cultural than one of infrastructure, although the infrastructure can be made to support a culture if one exists.

I'd like to keep the discussion going about how to make both culture and infrastructure strong. Sunday is a great chance to start that discussion. So is Monday, May 21st under the Fringe Festival Beer Tent, and tons of other times in the next few months.

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Make like a Startup

Sat, 03/10/2012 - 16:48 -- rprice

Yes. I know some people will not agree with everything in this slideshow. They're wrong. Thanks to Leisa for writing this.

my talk from the LBi ’What’s Next in Experience Design’ in which I talk about why skunk works style internal start ups are prone to failure and the characteristics of successful start

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Coding for a Cause and Florida DrupalCamp in the Orlando Sentinel

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 19:58 -- rprice

Our charity Drupal coding event, Coding for a Cause, made it to the local paper earlier this month. It's always nice to be worthy of a picture in the paper.


Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda, Orlando Sentinel

"Sometimes 'hacking' gets misconstrued as being something bad," said Ryan Price, a 29-year-old consultant and trainer for Drupal, a content-management system that can be used to build websites and blogs. "But it literally means tinkering, and there are all sorts of different hacking events. … We wanted to set aside a day and work with nonprofits."

I have to say, for the handful of times I've been mentioned or quoted in the press, this is probably my favorite. Kate Santich writes about social services and volunteerism for the Orlando Sentinel, so she was a great person to help us get the story out about our 3rd annual Coding for a Cause event at Florida DrupalCamp 2012. This year, Lisa Thorell and Diane Court have been assisting us with some marketing, publicity and programming tasks in the camp, and they are certainly responsible for getting us in touch with the Sentinel. All I had to do was answer a few questions.

the Drupal community — united by the idea of sharing computer code for free — believes in helping people to help themselves, rather than charging even a small fee.

"All you have to do is show up and put on your thinking cap. You have to want to be there," Price said. "The No. 1 thing for us is actually to be able to get inexperienced people in an environment where they can sit down and work next to someone who is very experienced and work on the same project."

It's not just knowledge for knowledge's sake either. Mike Anello, principal partner at Anello Consulting and one of the camp organizers, said he hopes volunteers who want to learn how to use Drupal — employed on websites from WhiteHouse.gov to Sony — might be able to pick up job skills from it. Already, the Merritt Island resident has trained laid-off aerospace workers looking for a new career path. So far, 14 of the 18 students in his recently completed 10-week course have landed internships.

"With unemployment so high," Price said, "we're just trying to create opportunities for people."

For me, this event is really about growing the pool of talented Drupal developers, and the people who see Drupal (or any open source project) as a viable option for solving their problems. It's a bit of a catch 22, though, you kind of need one to get the other, hence the game-changing nature of Coding for a Cause.

Some organizations see websites like the ones we're building as prohibitively expensive - that's money they could be spending on other things. Then there are the developers saying "I need to eat". This way, everybody wins. We also hope that experienced people working along side inexperienced people creates all kinds of new opportunities and experiences we can't even predict. New best practices get shared, partnerships get formed, whatever.

It's a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to the challenge, and hopefully launching three sites in the next month or two.

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