Tabs Toronto 2021

An acquaintance dropped me a line this winter asking if there’s a tool available for getting notifications of City of Toronto council / committee meeting agenda items of interest. Tabs Toronto did this from 2012-2018, but has since been offline. So I promised to see what I could do, and I’ve posted the tool here:

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Suddenly, Toronto lobbyist registry

Just over a week after the Toronto budget mini-hackathon, The Toronto Star launched their Lobby Watch mini-site, featuring some great “interactives.” The timing is uncanny: we were working with the same data at the hackathon, and had similar outputs in mind. The work was done by Marc Ellison (@marceellison,, and has received a great response on Twitter. A few observations: Continue reading

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[murmur] at 10

Ken19Ten years ago tonight, James Roussel and I skulked around Kensington Market, awkwardly attaching incredibly heavy homemade square steel signs to various poles, lugging armloads of tools and trying to not to look conspicuous.

In the early hours of the morning, I went back to my apartment on Crawford Ave., and checked on the big, loud, ugly computer in my hall closet — which answered the calls and played the stories. No calls yet.

Over the next five years, James and [Shawn] and I launched [murmur] in lots of new places. Everyone loved the project, but we struggled to find a way to bring in enough revenue that we could make it our main gig. Eventually we gave up, realizing that for us to pursue any of the lucrative paths would mean losing the parts of the project that we loved the most.

When we set sail with our “art project,” it took me to Vancouver and Montreal, Edinburgh and Dublin, San Jose, Sao Paulo and Melbourne. And it opened doors for other projects, which we needed to pursue in order to pay the rent. But it was an ideal education in getting things done, in how to make compromises, and pitching and negotiating. Hearing and capturing all the amazing stories was the wonderful bonus.

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Toronto budget mini-“hackathon” report

Check out the cool stuff we made at the Toronto budget mini-hackathon this weekend!

We parsed the 2012 city budget from a messy bunch of Excel files, and uploaded it to OpenSpending — which produces this interactive treemap:

Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 9.22.23 AM


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Toronto Budget “Hackathon”: Jul 20-21

(part of OKFN’s Global Weekend for Spending Data)

What is it? is project of the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN), and is a platform for collecting, storing and analyzing government budgets and financial transactions.

The weekend of July 20-21, OpenSpending is encouraging local groups to organize “data parties,” to explore budget and spending data for their city, and share it through OpenSpending’s portal.

This event is open to anyone who’d like to contribute to adding City of Toronto budget and spending data (whatever’s publicly available) to the OpenSpending platform. Continue reading

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Creativity and Culture are alive and well

This week I attended a salon (themed conversation plus dinner) on Canada’s creative future. It was sparked in part by a Globe op-ed from last year: Canada must refuel for cultural creativity. It was a great conversation with a room of brilliant and inspiring people, but I was a little surprised to find myself arguing that things aren’t so bad. (I’m used to being the negative one.)

Of course, there are a range of perspectives on the importance of culture and creativity. I won’t suggest that it’s always the case, and I won’t pretend that this isn’t overly simplistic, but it appears that there’s a significant generational gap on the issue. There are comparatively few young people at the opera, but isn’t not because we’re philistines. Mostly, we can’t afford to go to the opera. There are far more satisfying ways for us to engage culturally.  Continue reading

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