Making it real

Ideas are great. I love ideas. I love coming up with concepts for people. It’s why I love my job. I love working with creative people and with people who do things we don’t normally think of as creative in a creative way.

I have a whole bank of ideas that haven’t found a home. That is, I’ve got a bunch of really cool concepts for projects that I haven’t found the right way to make real yet.

Over the summer, I had the privilege of seeing one of my favourites come to life: Alleyways Market (in the Exchange) was an idea I sat with for nearly 3 years. And then I had a chat with my friend Tom, and he said: let’s do it.

We enlisted the talented LuckyGirl Popup operators to help us curate the “maker” side of things, partnered with the Winnipeg Exchange District BIZ and CentreVenture Development Corp, and it came to life beautifully.

Eventful time ahead

February is usually a dead month around Winnipeg. The coldest of the cold, the final stretch of short days and windchill in a place that sees hot, action-packed summers with beautiful lakes and beaches and world-class festivals.

But in February, summer is a long, long way off.

So what have I gone and done? I’ve gotten myself involved in organizing not one, but two exciting events that month! The next few weeks are going to be very busy for me while I balance some great client projects with two major volunteer efforts that I feel quite passionate about. Wish me luck!

TEDxManitoba 2012—WhatIfx (design by circletheft)The first event, TEDxManitoba is taking place on February 9th, and needs very little introduction. Now in its second year, we have a great group of people on the organizing committee, an excellent line-up of speakers from all over the place, and a stellar set-up for our venue. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do—and be sure to catch our live stream on event day.

The second event is brand new. And possibly a little bit insane.

Actif Epica, which will take place on February 18th, began life when my co-organizer Ian Hall rode a winter bike race in Minnesota last winter. Over the fall, he approached me and said that he would like to try something like that here, and did I think there was we could make it into something more than a bike race? He had the route planned out (more or less), and we began work on creating a DIY, grass-roots, self-organizing winter festival, with an emphasis on human-powered, outdoor activity in the winter.

Actif Epica (poster by circletheft)

The whole thing is based on an interactive strategy focussed on connecting with people and creating serendipity. It winds up as something like a crowd-sourced festival platform—the bike race (130 km along the Crow Wing Trail from St Malo to St Boniface) and it’s various checkpoints, along with five event principles provide a framework for people to hook into and create something new or build on something they’ve been doing for a while. We all get together and collaborate on making something special. Something beautifully human.

So far, it’s working beautifully! We have partners lining up along the route, including Festival des Amis, who will host the starting line for the challenge and Festival du Voyageur, who will host it’s finish line. We have organizations like Green Action Centre, who are hosting an event that’s a little bit more on the formal side (though definitely fun), and we’ve heard from lots of people who are interested in throwing together quick, low-key games of shinny and even murmers of a frozen ultimate frisbee tournament. It’s taking its own shape, which is exactly what we hoped for.

If you haven’t yet taken the time to read the speaker profiles for TEDxManitoba to see who you’d like to watch on the live stream, please do. They all even give us links to their favourite TED talks, so you can get a sense of what tickles their brains.

And if you happen to be around Winnipeg in February, there are lots of ways to get involved and have fun at what is sure to become an incredible Manitoban tradition of facing the cold and laughing at it. :)

HOT Canadian Politics NOT

One of the great things about the time we live in is that anyone can be a publisher. It’s an easy thing to forget with sites like Twitter and Facebook commanding so much of our attention and traffic. Canadian FlagThey make it even easier to share links and make remarks than blogging platforms do, but by emphasizing the sharing, they tend to obscure one of the great beauties of The Interactive Age—namely, the fact that blogging gave us push-button publishing.

It’s something that Ian Stewart over at Automattic recently reminded me about, and something that seems to continue to drive a lot of passion and innovation around the web on a continual basis. If the recent history of the internet is any indicator, open platforms and protocols that allow people to express themselves and communicate with each other will always win out in the end.

In Canada, we are in the middle of a Federal Election. On a lark yesterday, I decided to create a new website: HOT Canadian Politics NOT. It took me roughly an afternoon to get it going. WordPress made it simple. I found an easy to use, easy to modify theme, and when I couldn’t find a “hot or not” type plugin, I dug a little deeper and found something that could effectively do the same thing.

HOT Canadian Politics NOTAfter a tiny bit of CSS tweaking and minor futzing about in the theme templates (though really, I didn’t *need* to do any), I wound up with what I was basically looking for. I’ll be tweaking it some more over time, I’m sure. But the beauty of whipping something up that’s fun in a jiffy can’t be beat. I recommend it. It’s far more satisfying than Twitter or Facebook—even if right now the best way to spread it around is through my networks there.

Even when you look at the arguments surrounding the walled garden that is Apple’s App Store (and its various competitors’ clones), people often miss the fact that Apple has deliberately been one of the strongest proponents of supporting open web standards.

To me, this is Apple’s “wink wink nudge nudge” to all those people who want to develop stuff that the App Store can’t or won’t sell. Build an HTML 5 Web App! It will have the added advantage of running everywhere.

The power of push-button publishing may sound like old news. It’s not. We’re just getting started, and the more that businesses and marketers can embrace that spirit, the more quickly they’ll be able to reboot for the interactive age.