mike lenczner with udell

From Jon Udell”s Interviews with Innovators: Community Wireless:

Michael Lenczner is one of the founders of ÃŽle Sans Fil, Montreal’s community wireless network which comprises over 150 hotspots and serves almost 60,000 registered users. By any standards the project is a huge success. Yet Michael is an unusually thoughtful technologists who asks himself hard questions about whether Ile Sans Fil has really enhanced community life in the ways the founders hoped it would.


Michael Geist has an article in the Toronto Star about Canadian book 2.0 projects. The two projects cited are Evan’s Wikitravel Press, and LibriVox.

About Wikitravel Press, says he:

For example, Wikitravel, one of the Internet’s most acclaimed travel websites, was launched in 2003 by Montreal residents Evan Prodromou and Michele Ann Jenkins. Using the same wiki collaborative technology that has proven so successful for Wikipedia, the Wikitravel site invited travelers to post their comments and experiences about places around the world in an effort to build a community-generated travel guide.

In less than five years, the site has accumulated more than 30,000 online travel guides in 18 languages, with more than 10,000 editorial contributions each week. The content is freely available under a Creative Commons licence that allows the public to use, copy or edit the guides.

Building on Wikitravel’s success, Prodromou and Jenkins recently established Wikitravel Press, which introduced its first two titles earlier this month. Wikitravel Press represents a new approach to travel book publishing based on Internet collaborative tools and print-on-demand technologies that should capture the attention of the industry for several reasons…

[there’s more]
And on LibriVox:

Canadians are also playing a leading role in reshaping the creation of audiobooks. Hugh McGuire, a Montreal-based writer and Web developer, established LibriVox in August 2005. The site is also based on concept of Internet collaboration. In this instance, LibriVox volunteers create voice recordings of chapters of books that are in the public domain. The resulting audio files are posted back on to the Internet for free.

The LibriVox project, which does not have an annual budget, has succeeded in placing more than 1,200 audio books on the Internet, including Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, works from Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and hundreds more.

He finishes:

New technologies are rapidly reshaping the book industry and it is exciting to see how Canadians are quietly playing a leading role in the re-imagining of how books are created and distributed.

Categories: montreal, urbanism

save griffintown

I’m always excited when the web starts having an impact on the actual city (or country) we live in. I am unlikely to go to a protest march or city hall to demand meetings with the mayor. I do send the odd nasty email to newspapers and politicians though, and I’ve seen three times online cage-rattling in which I did some banging of the bars seemed to have an impact: with the Parc/Bourassa stupidity; with the latest copyright kerfluffle in ottawa; and a the fed election when a copyright/RIAA lackey was beaten out by the NDP. Who knows whether the online activism did anything, but it sure didn’t hurt.

Well, Griffintown is under attack from the kind of stupid urban ‘”planning” that involves big developers ruining neighbourhoods. If that bugs you, have a look at Save Griffintown to find out more.

a standout job

Montreal movers/shakers Ben and Fred have officially launched Standoutjobs Reception, with a little help from their friend Austin.

Here’s what it is:

The product is called RECEPTION. It’s a suite of web-based tools to power your online recruiting efforts. At its core you’ll find a do-it-yourself, interactive Career Site. The idea is to give companies the power to truly showcase their cultures and teams. Candidates want more information and interactivity from companies, and we hope to provide that. By allowing companies and candidates to build on-going relationships we make the process of hiring a more human one, which is ultimately, what it’s all about any way. Job descriptions and job requirements are nice (or not!) but what candidates really want is an inside view into your company – they want to know if it’s a good cultural and personal fit.

It’d be nice to be in a position to need to use the tools there, cause they look great, but we ain’t there yet.

Anyway, congrats on the launch.

Categories: art, montreal

cool pic of mtl

Never seen a shot of the city from this perspective:


[pic by caribb; via spacingmontreal]

Categories: montreal, personal

Little Maghreb

This shocked me:

Nearly half of Montreal’s 63,000 immigrants [from] Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia arrived here after 2001 and they’re quickly making their presence felt.

What a change in seven years! I haven’t noticed, though the guy who installed my Videotron modem was from morocco and we had a good chat about life back there, and the Moroccan poufs in our house (that we bought from that great little Moroccan store on Duluth). Well …

Walk a few minutes east from Saint-Michel metro and you’ll find yourself in one of Montreal’s most recent ethnic neighbourhoods: the Petit Maghreb, a 15-block strip of North African business along Jean Talon Street between St. Michel and Pie IX boulevards.

Anyone fancy a tagine sometime soon?

[I’m loving Spacingmontreal.ca, by the way].

Categories: montreal, technology, web

Mtl Tech Map

Heri’s got a map of Montreal tech start-uppy things going on, if you’ve got a project to put in there:

mtl tech map

Categories: montreal

i love these things…

for some reason they make me happy. not sure why.


(from clinesclines, of ye olde flyckkr)

PodMtl meet-up this thursday

PodMtl, a monthly meet-up for podcasters and the podcast-curious, as well as friends and family-members of podcasters. PodMtl is a welcoming, non-judgmental gathering in an open, non-threatening environment, to talk about issues that affect podcasters and those around them.

pod mtl

So join us on November 29th starting at 19:30. Here’s the address :

* Sergent Recruteur
* 4801 St-Laurent blvd, Montreal
* 514.287.1412

I’m going to try to make it, but I am training back from Ottawa that day.

Thanks for organizing this, to: Sylvain and Bob.

cities and creativity

Mike announces that free community wifi group ilesansfil is proposing a project to the City of Montreal for a million dollars over five years to increase hotspot coverage. Kudos and good luck. Article in La Presse.

In a related idea, Jon Udell talks about the cities and the creative class:

…the creative class values place above employer. To a 25-year-old European marketing or software professional, the choice of Barcelona over some less desirable city is now more decisive than the choice between working for IBM or Microsoft.

You still need to make your city attractive to IBM and Microsoft, because these companies help create and sustain the quality-of-life conditions that attract the creative class. But companies don’t have a direct interest in those conditions, people do.

It was fascinating to see how these cities are now thinking explicitly about competing — in terms of their housing, transportation, safety, culture, and IT enablement — to attract the creative class. Success produces a compound benefit, because the creative class is an engine of prosperity. Not only does it spend money, it also germinates new businesses. And those tend to be just the kinds of businesses that appeal to the creative class, so it can become a virtuous cycle.

Is it elitist to focus on the needs of the creative class? I don’t think so. Every citizen cares about housing, transportation, safety, culture, and IT enablement. If cities do better in those areas in order to attract the creative class, everybody wins.

From my personal experience, ISF has been a prime driver of much of the creative interaction among the people I know (which is a small group, granted) … hanging out and working at Laika — with free wifi — helped germinate many of my ideas about the web … at least one of which (LibriVox) has been successful.

Patrick’s co-working project is nearing launch, so that’ll add some good spice to the creative mix.

Another related thing that I’ve been thinking about (without doing any analysis) is that the web and small start-ups are egalitarian employers, and hence could be important for integration of new communities in Montreal.

In the (mostly ill-making) Bouchard-Taylor Commission, one of the things that came up recently was the inability of trained professionals (doctors, teachers, engineers) from other countries to get work in their domains in Quebec – despite a shortage of doctors, teachers and engineers. That’s the nice thing about the web – I can say, talking from experience as a small (unfunded) web start-up, that I couldn’t care less about official qualifications, where you’re from (indeed, where you live) … all I want to know is: can you do the things that I’m hoping can be done (which you’ve learned just by hacking, and can demonstrate by showing me things you’ve done on the web), and do I think we’ll get along?

That’s important since one of the big problems for immigrant communities is finding good work. So finding ways to support small start-ups (whatever that means) *could* be one way to give more interesting avenues for employment for young, keen immigrants. Helping people in general become hackers is another way to give avenues to prosperity, without having the mainstream constraints that our traditional education systems impose.

Montreal is ideally attractive to the creative class — funky, cheapish, fun, mixed, vibrant etc — but there are all sorts of problems here. For pros and cons, see the discussion from a while back over at Heri’s MontrealTechWatch.

I wonder how City of Montreal’s planning & policies compare with other hubs of innovation?