Open Source Bridge Day 1 – My thoughts

This is my first time to attend Open Source Bridge conference in Portland, Oregon. So far, it has been interesting, fun, and welcoming.

Today’s keynote by Nicole Sanchez (VP of Social Impact at GitHub) was riveting! Her message of reforming the tech industry was direct and strong (via Karvel Digital):

  1. Tweet a systemic problem that needs minds & hands to work on it
  2. Use
  3. Follow for updates.

Nicole gave several examples of problems :

  • Compensation structures and equity
  • Governance
  • Pay parity across demographics
  • Net neutrality
  • Expanded “diversity reports” and other expectations of public accountability
  • Uses of data
  • Choices of source material

I am going to vote for “uses of data” later today…

Next, I went to the “How to Prototype and Test” workshop lead by Morgan Miller. She gave an excellent overview of usability, paper prototyping and user testing. The workshop attendees were divided into teams, given the task of developing an idea for an app or website, create paper prototypes and then conduct a user test. To me, the most important advice on paper prototyping was things can be messy, and it’s ok! It was a lot of fun, and I have a better idea of how to develop concepts and test them.

After lunch, I attended “Learn To Type at 250 WPM Using Open Source Tools” by Josh Lifton. His story of development of the open source steno software application Plover ( was a great story, as well as his side project of developing an open source stenograph machine ( He did say that people are using this software to do writing of novels and other works, not just traditional stenography.

Next, Kronda Adair led a session titled “Quick and Dirty WordPress Sites that Don’t Suck“. She described a number of tools that can help in developing capable WordPress sites and help business owners in marketing and promotion. I am looking forward to checking out some of those tools!

My last session was “Decoding The History of Codes” by Niharika Kohli. Her talk covered a quick history of the use of ciphers and codes (dating back to Julius Caesar!), and included a fun quiz at the end of the talk. After a bit of time, the audience was able to work out the ciphers (not me, though!).

Come back tomorrow for Day 2!


Keeping conversations going on the Web

In his latest AltPlatform post, Brian Hendrickson discusses various “levels” of comment/conversation technologies available on the Web:

  • Level 1 – Crossing web site boundaries, Webmention,
  • Level 2 – Hybrid network, publishing feeds but need a reader to follow them
  • Level 3 – Internal social networking (Slack, Rocket Chat)

I use Twitter and RSS readers to try to monitor areas I am interested, and items I want to read and comment on. What I would like is to be able to comment easily and keep a conversation going. If there are tools that can help me do that, I want to know about them!


How the Open Source Bridge River of News app works

Welcome to attendees of the 2017 Open Source Bridge conference in Portland, Oregon! If you followed the link from the Open Source Bridge River of News app, this post will explain the tools I used to create the app.

Tool list:

I wanted to create an app to be able to easily follow news about the conference (see my app at for a more complex example of following multiple RSS feeds). To start, I reviewed the conference presenter list and made a list of the available Twitter handles and weblogURLs. Next, I created lists of the blogs and added it to my River5 installation. River5 is a “river of news” aggregator that allows you to follow multiple RSS or Atom feeds and display them as separate lists or rivers.

I also wanted to create a RSS feed of Twitter posts by the presenters and Twitter posts containing the text “osbridge”. To do this, I used the web service. The site allows users to create a URL search for a Twitter handle or a Twitter search. I then took these URLs and added them to separate text files to add to my River5 installation.

After adding the lists to River5, three files were created containing a list of items from the combined RSS feeds. I then used the riverBrowser toolkit single page app to display those files.


  • Linux server to run River5
  • Web hosting for the single page

I will be at the Open Source Bridge conference – feel free to reach out if you would like to talk about RSS apps, develop something new, or get some help on setting up your own app (tweet me at @AndySylvester99)!


Getting started with Tone.js – Day 1

I have been playing with the Tone.js Javascript library for creating Web Audio apps and the NexusUI library for creating user interfaces. I am going to work on creating an app for music composition using the concepts of Joseph Schillinger and his “Schillinger System of Musical Composition”. To get started, I have created a sample app available at which plays a set of tones based on a Schillinger resultant. The code for the app is also on Github. Check it out!


We have great tools to create – are we creating great things?

I have been following Doc Searls’ account of the podcasting conference at Columbia University this past weekend. It is fascinating stuff – I wish that Columbia would have made these presentations available online – maybe they will at some point. My takeaway is that there is a lot of diversity in podcasts (subjects/formats), that there is no controlling silo (although many bigger podcasters seem to worship at the Temple of iTunes…), that there are a lot of podcast gems out there but it can be hard to find them (discoverability), and that like Sturgeon’s Law says, there are a lot of low-quality (my euphemism) podcasts out there, but hopefully through experimentation, better podcasts will arise.