Phillip Smith

Hacks/Hackers Toronto: some goals for 2011

After just a few short months, the Toronto chapter of Hacks/Hackers feels like it's hitting a good stride. My comrades in off-the-side-of-the-desk co-organizing -- Kim Fox, Craig Silverman, Ivor Tossell, and Mason Wright -- have been instrumental in kicking this group into shape, and forging a pretty compelling vision for what's to come.

Early in the new year, we got together at Bar Wellington and hammered out a simple plan over sandwiches, salads, and coffee:

  • The events are going to be short-and-sweet and journalism-focused;
  • Each event and will aim leave folks with both practical tips and envelope-pushing ideas to take back to their reporting, or hacking;
  • A news event (hopefully recent) will be unpacked, we'll hear about how it was produced, technically and editorially;
  • There will be a hands-on technology demo;
  • There will be an exploration of what the future holds, e.g., new formats for digital storytelling

Those are the broad strokes. We'll be playing with the event format -- some talks, some Q&A, etc. -- but the focus will stay fairly consistent. We'll see what works and what doesn't and iterate toward something awesome.

This will happen every six weeks starting February 15th. Events are already scheduled for March and May.

When Mason and I went for a beer back in October to discuss starting Hacks/Hackers Toronto, I didn't have a well-formed theory of change about why Toronto might need such a thing. Put simply: after attending one of the first meetings of Hacks/Hackers Boston in June, and subsequently meeting Rich Gordon and Burt Herman in Chicago at the Mobile Hack event, I was convinced that this movement was something worth supporting, but -- beyond that -- it was just a hunch.

After two successful meet-ups and lots of one-on-one conversations, things are a bit clearer. For journalist, it is an opportunity to find the language, the tools & skills, and the collaborators necessary to continue to evolve their craft. For local hardware hackers and software programmers, it's an opportunity to get a look "inside the tent" of the news-production machine, and to understand the role it plays in helping people understand what's going on around them. Collectively, it's a space to learn, share, and experiment.

I'm hopeful that we'll start to see some interesting collaborations spring up here in Toronto. We're going to do our best to create a friendly environment for them to take root.

P.S. We are searching for a semi-permanent home for the events (or a small stable of locations). If you have any ideas, or would like to offer your space, please drop me a line.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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