Monthly Archives: January 2011

Me talk awesome one day

UPDATED: MP3 audio file: CBC Metro Morning. Awesome Foundation Toronto.
Jan 25 2011

This morning I got to chat with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning and The Toronto Star about the brand new Toronto chapter of the Awesome Foundation. I did some homework last night, pulling talking points from Awesome Foundation HQ, this helpful Huffington Post article, and all the great work our Dean of Awesome, Geoffrey MacDougal, has done on the Toronto chapter web site. I thought I’d share this “cheat sheet” of talking points here, in case others find it helpful in talking with friends or media. Go Team Awesome! Go!

What is the Awesome Foundation?

  • The Awesome Foundation is dedicated to forwarding the cause of awesome in the universe — a thousand bucks at a time.
  • We’re ten average schmucks who get together once a month. We each put $100 in a brown paper bag, and give it to an awesome idea or project — no strings attached.
  • Anyone can propose an idea through our web site. Deadline is the 15th of each month.
  • It’s all about showing what an awesome city Toronto is. With projects that bring people together, inspire a moment of awe or delight, and help us imagine a more awesome future.

How does it work?

  • Anyone can propose an awesome idea through our web site.
  • Deadline is the 15th of every month.
  • The Board meets monthly. “Arbiters of Awesome.”
  • Each trustee kicks in $100.
  • We award $1000 in a paper bag to the winner.
  • No strings attached. As long as they commit to use the money for the project they’ve proposed.

What are some examples from other cities?

  • The world’s largest hammock (Boston)
  • A science lab for kids (Washington D.C.)
  • A downhill sled ride (Berlin)
  • A database of hip hop lyrics (New York)
  • Robotic desk lamps (San Fracisco)
  • Kitchen classroom project. Helping elementary schools buy cooking equipment. (Washington, D.C.)
  • “Project Big Dipper.” Putting constellations back in London’s night sky using LED lights and helium balloons (London, UK)
  • A workshop to teach teenage girls how to build their own video games (San Francisco)
  • Prototyping emergency cel phone infrastructure. So people can communicate after natural disasters.

What is “awesome?” How do you define it?

  • Awesome is kinda like art. Hard to define, but you know it when you see it!
  • It’s about bringing communities together.
  • Expanding our idea of what’s possible. As individuals and communities.
  • Sparking an instant of awe, wonder or delight.
  • Inspiring hope for a more awesome future.

Why Toronto? Why now?

  • Is Ottawa (Canada’s first Awesome Foundation chapter) more awesome than Toronto? We think not! 😉
  • It’s the middle of winter. Bad news at city hall. The city’s in a bit of a funk. Could use an injection of awesome.
  • Remind Toronto that we’re an ingenious city of smart, creative, caring people with big ideas and awesome potential.

Who’s behind it?

  • 10 regular schmucks. Diverse ages & backgrounds.
  • Self-financed. We each dig into our own pockets.

Why are you doing this?

(I flubbed this question. Realized I didn’t have a clear answer prepared! They’re looking for your personal answer. With emotional flavor. e.g., “You’re ponying up your hard-earned cash each month, so you must really care about this. But why?”)

My personal answer:

  • Doing good is often framed as “eat your broccoli!” or “you better do this, or you’ll feel guilty.”
  • I think the Awesome Foundation strikes a chord because it’s about doing good and having fun at the same time.
  • It’s not about doing good just out of a sense of obligation. Or because you should feel guilty if we don’t. It’s because doing good is awesome!

When did this all start?

  • The Toronto Chapter is brand new. Founded January 2011. First deadline for submissions is Feb 15.
  • Tim Hwang founded the first Awesome Foundation chapter in 2009 in Boston.

What’s not so awesome?

  • Purchases for personal use. “I want $1000 to take a trip to Florida” or “buy a camper van” is probably not awesome. Unless it’s part of a larger project.
  • Maintenance fees for established charities and foundations. While we love your mission, these micro-grants are probably not a good fit. Unless you can think of a specific, creative $1000 project that the money could go directly towards.

Where are the other chapters?

There’s about a dozen world-wide. With more sprouting up all the time.

  • Berlin
  • Boston
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • Melbourne
  • New York City
  • Ottawa
  • San Francisco
  • Toronto
  • Washington DC

Where do I submit my idea?

Who’s on the Toronto Board?

  • Eric Boyd
  • Jen Dodd & Michael Nielsen (Shared)
  • William Huffman
  • Karl Lee
  • Geoffrey MacDougall (The Dean)
  • Linda Read
  • Melanie Redman & Phillip Smith (Shared)
  • Martin Ryan
  • Tonya & Mark Surman (Shared)
  • Matt Thompson & Rich Cooper (Shared)

What has the Toronto Awesome Foundation funded so far?

Everything from a guerrilla fish taco stand, to art-works viewable from space, to a big cardboard fort party an online “kiss map” of Toronto. Anything that inspires a moment of awe or delight.

  • Guerrilla fish taco stand. Fed up with Toronto’s mediocre street food (hot dogs, hot dogs and more hot dogs), this gourmet vigilante is creating his own mobile fish taco unit. Tacos to the people!
  • A “kiss map” of Toronto. A people’s “kisstory” of Toronto. Share your favorite “first kiss” moments from across the city. (Add your own at
  • Carbon capture jewelry. Wearable crystals that suck carbon dioxide out of the air. Fight global warming — and look stylish doing it.
  • 50-foot Rob Ford. A giant 50-foot graffiti paste-up challenging Toronto’s recent “war on graffiti”
  • Cardboard fort night. A thousand bucks worth of cardboard, duct tape and magic markers — plus a buncha creative folks drinking beer and building wild cardboard forts together.
  • Mighty Wall of Tics. An online “wall” where members of the Tourette Syndrome community can post and compare their tics. (Hosted by the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada.)
  • Connect the T-dots. Turning the city of Toronto into a giant number puzzle. Local artist paints big white dots on people’s roofs, forming a giant “connect the dots” puzzle viewable from space.

Drumbeat’s new front page: [insert awesome here]

Crisp. Clear. Fun. But what?

As part of the new messaging for Mozilla Drumbeat, we need some crisp new headline copy for the front page. A quick lightning bolt that answers: “What is this? Why am I here?” It should be ruthlessly clear and simple, ideally with a little poetry or play thrown in. Instead of “eat your broccoli” earnestness or buzzwords.

What are these Drumbeaters *doing*?

That’s the question this copy should answer. It’s not really “What is Drumbeat?” But more: “What do I do here?” The new front page will include an activity stream that highlights the most recent examples of people *doing stuff* on Drumbeat. It’s a great way to show instead of tell. But what, in a nutshell, are those people doing? “Building a better web and world?” “Open collaboration on awesome projects?” “Making cool stuff on the web together?”

Foursquare = “Connect with friends. Unlock your city.”

Foursquare does this well. From the moment you land, you grok exactly what the application is all about. The activity stream immediately telegraphs what people do here. And the copy fires three crisp bullets (in just 8 words): “Check in. Connect with friends. Unlock your city.”

What’s the Drumbeat equivalent?

One of Mark Surman‘s earlier tag lines was: “Innovation for the open web. Powered by everyone.” Drumbeat is about open web tools and thinking. Applied to new projects in areas like education, media and science. Co-creation and building together is key. Working in the open. Using open technologies. And experimenting with what else we can do with “open.” Open collaboration on projects. Open innovation through design and developer challenges. Open education, open media, open science, open hardware, open data…  It’d be nice to have the word “open” in there. But how exactly?

Using open technologies to build the world we want

I keep coming back to these slides for inspiration:

What would you do?

What headline would you put on Drumbeat’s new front page? Propose an awesome answer as a comment here, and earn bragging rights and undying respect from the Drumbeat community. And of course a snazzy t-shirt and swag.