Making It Matter

3D print

First attempt at 3D printing. Nothing exploded.

I had never heard of the term “maker culture” until mid-last year. Curious to find out what it meant, I attended a few events across the city geared at DIY types. First there was Mozilla’s Maker Party, which is a global campaign to teach the inner workings of the web. Then, at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire, I signed up for an introduction to 3D design workshop run by MakeLab and produced my first 3D print. When the holiday season arrived, City of Craft and Vendor Queens were hosting meet-the-maker craft fairs and community art markets showcasing products that local independent designers created. It wasn’t easy to find these makers groups before. Some were professionals within the art, design, science and technology realms, while many were self-taught hobbyists. Even though I am not part of the maker scene, what inspired me most was seeing other people with little training displaying their passion projects.

You can make websites. You can make apps. You can make robots. You can make games. You can make music. You can make films. You can make books. You can make cards. You can make posters. You can make clothes. You can make accessories. You can make food. You can make a mess. You can make friends who share similar interests or simply find people who were already making the things you’d like to make.

And making matters because it’s about showing and discovering what you can do and not waiting for permission to do it. (Or in some cases, building something or else it won’t ever exist.) Everyone can learn how to create. That, I think, is what maker culture is all about.

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Try It First: Make a Mobile App with Mozilla’s Appmaker

What would you like on your poutine?

A poutine-themed app

Earlier this month, I attended my very first hackathon here in the city hosted by Hive Toronto. As someone with limited coding skills, but have mastered the art of clicking things, moving them around and filling in form fields, I was glad the activity involved no programming at all. The platform we were hacking away at happened to be the “pre-alpha” version of the Mozilla Appmaker, a free tool to create personal mobile apps on your web browser without requiring you to code. It took me two minutes to design a Beyonce-themed Irreplaceable Taps app that made sounds as you hit the words “to the left, to the left.” Two minutes. All in all, it was fun to build apps and not care whether they were good, marketable ideas. (Would anyone like a poutine app?) Now in beta, Appmaker is ready for the public to test out. You can read my article on Techvibes, which takes a closer look at the new tool and what Mozilla plans on doing with this technology.

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5 Things to Know About Hoopla, the Free Streaming Service for Videos, Music and Audiobooks

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 4.13.47 PM

To end off a series of library-related posts, let me introduce you to Hoopla Digital, the mother-of-all free streaming service for music, movies, TV shows, documentaries and audiobooks that you could access and indulge in with a public library card. More iTunes-y than Netflix or Spotify, Hoopla is a cloud-based digital media platform that enables users to instantly borrow entertainment and educational material off the website or through the Hoopla app on a tablet or smartphone. It sprung up in Canada last July and is currently available in Edmonton, Hamilton, Guelph, Richmond, Victoria, B.C. and a few other Canadian cities, as well as many more in the U.S. (Check the map to see if your town has it.)

The Toronto Public Library will be launching Hoopla soon, and while I haven’t had the privilege to test it out yet, here are some interesting bits about this underground world of legal downloading:

1. The catalogue is huge.
There’s reportedly more than 250,000 albums and 10,000 movies, TV shows and audiobooks in the digital library and growing. Not bad for a starter collection. What drew me in personally was the wide selection of popular music, including top artists like Ellie Goulding, Drake, The Weeknd and Katy Perry, as well as EPs and remix albums. Full records can be downloaded from the app to listen to on a mobile device during long commutes, and new releases are added at the same time they come out on iTunes. Movies and TV shows aren’t as current or extensive as Netflix, but there are more educational and instructional videos, which can be borrowed for three days without having to put anything on a wait list. Albums are automatically returned after seven days and audiobooks after three weeks. One thing I noticed was that there could be variations of the Hoopla catalogue that differ between library systems. For instance, TPL’s might exclude audiobooks because of the overlap with OverDrive.

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Research Cheat Sheet: Tips From a Librarian

I recently wrote a guest post for freelance writer and editor Jaclyn Law who runs a blog called EditFish on Masthead, a website that covers the Canadian magazine industry. If you’ve ever found yourself having to dig up information from authoritative sources at 3 a.m., be sure to check out my piece on online research, where I teach you a few intermediate-level search techniques and useful resources. And if you’re the type that enjoys operating on the principle of least effort, this one’s for you, too.

Jaclyn is also the president of the Professional Writers Association of Canada Toronto Chapter. Anyone interested in freelance writing, especially outside of the magazine industry, should consider attending one of the many professional development workshops run by the organization throughout the year.

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Douglas Coupland’s Digital Orca in Vancouver

digital orca

While I didn’t spot any real whales on my recent trip to Vancouver, I did snap a photo of Douglas Coupland’s public sculpture, the Digital Orca, next to the Olympic Cauldron and the Vancouver Convention Centre. Also, there was a giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum within the University of British Columbia. Between a fake animal and a dead one, I preferred the whale that doubles as a chair.

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Get It First: Unlimited Access to Digital Magazines With Your Library Card

Zinio

The Toronto Public Library has pumped out a lot of neat digital collections and services over the years. There’s ebooks, databases, loopholes in newspaper paywalls, free wifi, to name a few. TPL has now added unlimited access to digital magazines through Zinio to the list. That means, if you’re a Toronto Public Library card holder, more than 300 titles are available to download for free on your computer, tablet and smartphone, including:

[Update: Some titles will no longer be available through this service, while others now offer back issues. I’ve updated the list accordingly.]

Azure, Billboard Magazine, Canadian Living, Conde Nast Traveller UK, Cosmopolitan, Discover, The Economist, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Home & Gardens, MacWorld, Men’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, OK! Magazine, National Geographic, Nylon, Popular Science, Popular Photography, Reader’s Digest, Rolling Stone, Saveur, Us Weekly, The Walrus and many more.

Access to the collection is via the TPL portal, where an account needs to be set up with your library card. As well, you will have to register an account with Zinio and download the reader app. When you “check out” a title, the current issue is added to your Zinio magazine library, which you can read wherever and whenever you want. Unlike the ebooks lending program, there’s no wait lists or returns. The magazines stay in your Zinio account until you delete them.

Toronto isn’t the first city to offer this service to the public. Hamilton and Ottawa currently have digital magazine access with Zinio. Other libraries are rumoured to be rolling it out, too.

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