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Pat Dryburgh

Had such a great time with @bmann and @be.zelenka in Nanaimo on Wednesday. Read all about it at the link in my bio.

A day in Nanaimo

Working from home over the last year and a half has been a blessing and a curse. I don’t think I’ve ever been as consistently productive as I have been during this time, as working from home affords me the ability to focus. I’ve worked with awesome teams to ship several awesome projects, I released my first open source Jekyll theme, and launched A Wonderful Shop of Wonderful Wonders.

The flip side to this is that when I’m working alone in my apartment, it’s very easy to remain in my cave and only come up for food and water. Now that I don’t live in a more central location and don’t have an office to go to every morning, I can go days without speaking to anyone besides the cashiers at my local coffee shop.

For the last 3 months, I travelled between Montreal, QC, Mount Pearl, NL, Toronto, ON, and my hometown of Dorchester, ON to visit family and friends. I spent a lot of time in planes, trains, and automobiles, but more importantly around a lot more people than I was for the first few months of the year. Though still able to get away when work needed to happen, it was awesome to be able to sit with my family or go out for dinner with an old friend in the evening.

When I got back to B.C., I thought I’d relish some time to be alone. But, it only took a few days of settling in and reorganizing my belongings for the quiet to become uncomfortable.

Which is why when Boris Mann suggested a day trip to Nanaimo, BC for a “one day coworking and meetup adventure,” I signed up immediately.

The plan was to take a float plane to Nanaimo, hang out at the recently relaunched Input Cowork office, spend some time exploring the neighbourhood, and finally attend a local tech meetup hosted by Input Logic, owners of Input Cowork.

I took an Evo into Gastown and was joined at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre by Boris and his Fission co-founder Brooklyn Zelenka. The free coffee provided by Harbour Air and the incredibly comfortable seating at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre was a stark contrast to the experience of most airports and made the eventual rain delay a relaxing time to discuss the future of Web Assembly, the InterPlanetary File System, and the current state of open source software, ideas that would permeate through the entire day.

Brooklyn and I about to board the float plane
Photo by Boris Mann

Once boarded, I sat behind Boris and Brooklyn and prepared for the apology I surely owed whomever was doomed to sit next to me for taking up so much of the narrow bench. But before anyone could sit next to me, the best sentence I’d heard in some time emerged from in front of me:

You should ask to sit in the copilot’s chair.

Immediately my eyes lit up. I’ve been on countless flights in my lifetime, and a big part of that was the fascination I have with the stories my father would tell me of his time as a pilot. Before he and my mom had kids, he got his pilot’s license and would fly Mom and their friends and family all over the place. That sense of adventure stuck with me, but the feeling of sitting in the last row of coach with no ability to recline the seat for an 8-hour flight is not quite what I had always envisioned my dad’s flight experience was like.

When the pilot agreed to let me sit next to him, I was elated. He was quick to instruct me to keep my iPhone out of his field of view so as not to obstruct his vision, but this didn’t feel like a moment I much wanted to capture on camera (aside, of course, from a quick selfie with the killer headset I got to wear and a couple more I knew I’d want for this post). Sitting and watching as the plane flew through the rain clouds was as mesmerizing an experience as I can remember.

Me wearing a super cool headset
The controls for the float plane

And don’t worry, there were no controls at the copilot’s seat. I mostly offered moral support.

Me, Boris, and Brooklyn on the float plane

Coming from a long history of travelling in large commercial airlines at altitudes well above the clouds, I wasn’t expecting the entire flight to be as turbulent as it was. The rain, I’m sure, didn’t help. But as we approached Nanaimo the clouds began to clear and as we crossed over Protection Island the city of Nanaimo was aglow in the midmorning sun.

Leaving rainy Vancouver
Leaving rainy Vancouver
Arriving at sunny Nanaimo
Arriving at sunny Nanaimo

We met Input Logic & Cowork co-founder Shawn Adrian at Gabriel’s Gourmet Cafe for breakfast and shop talk, then walked up to the Input Cowork office for even more shop talk.

Boris led a discussion about lean startup methodology and Pirate Metrics with a group of over a dozen entrepreneurs and creative professionals. Hanging out with Boris reminds me of two fundamental truths: there are people who don’t know what I know and a lot more who know what I don’t.

Boris being awesome

The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting about different startup ideas, ones that we’d heard pitched to us or that we’d been tinkering with in the back of our own minds. I was reminded that I really enjoy discussing new and untested ideas with people who are smarter than me.

Lunch at The Vault Cafe

After a late lunch at The Vault Cafe, we walked along the sea wall and came upon the statue of Black Frank, who in 1967 started the Loyal Nanaimo Bath Tub Race. A stop at Cold Front Gelato was the perfect way to cap the afternoon as we made our way back to Input Cowork for the meetup.

Boris and Frank
Sign commemorating Black Frank

Boris kicked off the meetup doing what Boris does best: get people excited about an idea (it was Boris who first proposed the idea of flying halfway around the world to live in Kampala, Uganda). This time, his topic was open source software. After sharing his history as a Drupal advocate, Boris led the group through topics like the various open source licenses, the controversy surrounding the initial React license, the recent purchase of Github by Microsoft, and a whole lot more.

Next, Brooklyn gave a high-level overview of IPFS, the InterPlanetary File System. IPFS aims to move us away from centralized data storage to a system that is distributed and content-addressable, which opens the door to peer-to-peer sharing of content anywhere in the world — nay, the universe! I don’t know Brooklyn as well as I know Boris, but the few opportunities I’ve had to hear Brooklyn speak lead me to understand exactly why the pair work so well together. Her level of understanding of complex mathematical and technical concepts, in addition to her ability to translate those concepts to n00bs such as myself, make her as excellent an advocate for technology as she is a practitioner.

In a nutshell, rather than storing everyone’s data on a centralized server, IPFS lets you store your data on your own device (laptop, phone, IoT device, etc) and lets other people access that data by addressing the content itself rather than the device the data lives on. For example, rather than having a chat conversation be stored on my phone, my friend’s phone, and a server that’s owned by an untrustworthy third-party, the only devices that host the messages are mine and my friend’s.

I’m definitely going to be doing a lot more reading about IPFS in the coming weeks. Maybe prototype an idea or two :)

The final talk of the night was given by Carson Farmer, Lead Data Scientist at Textile. Textile is building open source tools for developers who wish to build on IPFS. I haven’t had a chance to dig through their projects yet, but am excited to play with one of their initial products. Textile Photos allows you to store photos in IPFS and create private groups to share them with. I’m interested particularly because most of my friends and family don’t use iPhones and therefore don’t have access to Apple’s private photo sharing service. This could be a very cool cross platform tool for sharing private photos without having to store your photos on an untrustworthy private company’s servers.

The evening wrapped and Boris, Brooklyn, and I set off on the Coastal Renaissance to return to Vancouver.

It was an awesome day that reminded me of the value of getting out of my apartment and into the world. Thanks again to Boris, Brooklyn, and Shawn for letting me join you on yesterday’s adventure!

Today, I’m the copilot.

Before/After

The rope hanging from the base of the tree on the left used to be used to get down to Lynn Creek. Some time in the last year this tree and another next to it toppled over.

Drinks with a friend.

Feels good to be back in BC.

Four 5¢ stamps for a quarter! 😆

Maybe a middle part, instead?

Decided it’s time to part my hair the other way.

Introducing Hitchens: An inarguably well-designed Jekyll theme

Over the last few months I’ve been working on an open source Jekyll theme called Hitchens. Inspired by the design of Christopher Hitchens’ book, Arguably, Hitchens was designed to emphasize the power of the written word.

There are two key reasons why I wanted to create this theme:

  1. I’ve been using Jekyll to publish my personal site for 3 years and have fallen in love with the platform. Learning the Liquid template language helped me design and develop a new Shopify site for Rye 51 in just 4 weeks and I’ve built several other sites for clients with Jekyll since.

  2. I’ve been working as a professional designer and developer for over 10 years. Almost everything I know about design was learned from the incredible people who have shared their knowledge and work freely online. Every project I’ve ever worked on has benefited in some way from the open source community.

    Hitchens is a small but important token of my appreciation to those who have given their time, energy, and knowledge to the open source community. Small because it’s a simple Jekyll theme. Important because it’s my first major contribution to the open source community since 2008.

Hitchens is released under an MIT license, the contents of which can be found in the theme’s repository on Github. This is the same license used for Minima, the default theme for Jekyll. Additional licensing information can be found on the project’s Github repository page.

Some cool features make Hitchens pretty special:

  1. The theme supports title-less posts out of the box. This means you can use this theme for both long-form writing and microblogging.
  2. Built-in JSON Feed support.
  3. A custom DuckDuckGo-powered search form.
  4. A skip-navigation link — even Minima doesn’t have one :D

I would be honoured if you would check out the theme and overjoyed if you would consider using it for your own Jekyll-powered blog. And if you notice any issues at all, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Happiness is when a friend sends you an unpublished photo they’ve taken of your favourite boy band growing up.

Virginia Is For Lovers →

My friend Carly brought a collective of musicians together to record a selection of songs live-off-the-floor. This is the first of a series of videos she’ll be releasing over the coming weeks. The cello and background vocals in this first recording hit all the right chords for me.

YVR ✈️ YYZ ✈️ YXU

Anyone can use the promo code FREESHIP11 to get free shipping when spending $45 or more in the US ($85 or more internationally) at A Wonderful Shop of Wonderful Wonders.

This offer ends at 11:59pm CT on December 12, 2018.

First person to use the promo code GIVE32A09D67 when purchasing an item from A Wonderful Shop of Wonderful Wonders will get $10 off their order.

Offer valid until 11:59pm CT on December 12, 2018.

Accidentally discovering that swiping up and down with two fingers in @tweetbot changes the theme is the best thing to happen to me in the last two weeks.