Public Lab Research note


by cfastie | August 12, 2016 18:24 12 Aug 18:24 | #13350 | #13350

Above: LEAFFEST HQ with garden and tenting grounds during the third annual LEAFFEST (2014). Photo by T. Smythe.

WHAT: An annual Public Lab meetup to refine and test DIY tools and brainstorm new ones.
WHEN: September 16 to 18 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).
WHERE: Chris’s house in Salisbury, VT.
HOW: Bring a tent and stay the whole weekend. There will be lots of food.
WHY: Because there is no arguing with tradition.

This is the fifth annual LEAFFEST. Public Lab Organizer Chris Fastie will be hosting the gathering. Thank you Public Lab for supporting the event again this year. There is no charge for attending LEAFFEST! Everyone is invited. All food will be provided and there are lots of places to set up a tent or otherwise crash.

Rumor has it that a solar hot air balloon will be attending LEAFFEST this year. Other exciting activities will depend on what YOU bring to work on, demonstrate, and try out. We always seem to get some cameras in the air and there will be lots of new projects to hear about. Hmmm, what sensors could we put on (in) a hot air balloon?

Above: This LEAFFEST tradition will become a contest this year. The best refrigerator Scrabble solution that is tweeted (#leaffest2016) will win a fabulous prize. Other ad hoc contests could also arise, and cool prizes (3D printed digital sundials, KAPtery gear) will be awarded to all winners. You could win a complete kit to build an Aerobee aerial photography rig.

There are 42 research notes at Public Lab tagged leaffest. A goal this year will be to surpass our annual record of 13 notes from 2013.

To help us plan:

Please sign up at this Google form.
Here is a Google Doc for planning ride sharing.
Here is the list of attendees so far.
Ask questions in a comment or at the Public Lab Northeast Google Group.

See you in Vermont.


I'll be there! Looking forward to it!

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me too! Trying to organize a van from NYC -- thanks for setting up that rideshare spreadsheet :)

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Hi Chris - OSHWA is organizing an October-long "documentation month" where different groups host 3h group hardware documentation sessions. We were wondering if we could do one at LEAFFEST -- maybe in relation to the new Activity Grids. Even though it's not in Oct, it's close enough and OSHWA is amenable. What do you think?

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That's a great idea to do a Documentation Day at LEAFFEST. It might require an entire day to wrestle the activity grids into shape.

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Maybe we can make an aerie of ourselves and Documentation Day spelled out in tomatoes... i'm excited for it!

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Another idea for a session -- one on making great Github issues -- contributing for non-coders! We've had such success with our first-timers-only outreach efforts for, and we're looking at how similar strategies could be applied to our new activity grids.

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Here's the announcement for OSHWA's Documentation Days -- and I've listed our event on the events page at -- they'll tweet out about LEAFFEST, and we should reciprocate!

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Great. We should use #leaffest2016, because tweeting #leaffest is confounded with many other things.

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Is anyone planning to bring a microscope? (webcam or otherwise)

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I dunno but check this out:

I'll be bringing a mobius and different lenses, so you can try this!

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Hey, I enjoyed LeafFest and decided to share my thoughts on the experience (besides the pretty pics and projects from the blog post). This is more like how was the event and what can we hack for next time round. I'm sure most of these you've heard/done before, so no harm/no foul::)

Awesome Things

Hiking and learning about shrooms-maybe next time we can actually connect the walk with current PublicLab projects to give the walk even more meaning

Making connections with people that are rock stars in my science tech world (And some people have extended family in that realm that we really ought to blog about ahem...@CFastie)

The demos of the projects including the kite, webjack, Gephi software, streamCam

Having people like Wilda and Molly present who aren't directly PublicLab people. In innovation we would call them "stretchers" as they help create balance between the known and unknown.

Fresh food by Chris - he was a great sport about feeding all of us

Things to Hack

Still better to have an unconference format or something more formalized so stuff can really get done. Yeah including rock exercises--that should be a thing!

For bad WiFi connection, best to have breakouts so people can do some work while others do a demo or talk session to free up signal.

Add a "helpful hints overview": conduct--respectful space (people and ideas respected), each person responsible for cleaning up for themselves, people volunteer at each meal to cook/clean

More central location (is there a State Park or KOA that has WiFi?? teehee!)

Maybe have an end goal or something each person commits to during the weekend (like mine would be a blog post or activity write-up)

Thanks for listening and hoping that other people both seasoned and new will share their ideas here. Thanks for a good intro to PublicLab from someone that has been lurking for quite some time.

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Thanks Leslie. In five years I think this is the first real evaluation of LEAFFEST. It’s so nice to get some reassurance that at least someone didn’t hate everything about it.

Your ‘Things to Hack’ are really good to hear. LEAFFEST is different every year and varies from a serious predetermined agenda to no plan at all. One year I made an OCD agenda of workshops which was completely ignored. This year I made no attempt to impose an agenda, and Liz and Jeff came prepared with lots of official projects and actually made progress on them. Often I make sure I accomplish some things that I want to do, but this year I just let things happen. That allowed me to focus on hosting which is fun and maybe more critical to success.

I got more help this year than most because lots of awesome and energetic people stepped up to cook and clean and resupply. It might be nice to spread these responsibilities around more, but it might be better to let people find their own place and not put chores in their way.

Similarly, I would love to impose a goal on everyone to participate in a project and post a research note about it. But I have given up trying to get people to post research notes. For almost all people, that is way too much to ask. It might be good to have planned activities that people are gently pushed into, but those activities must be carefully designed and led or they miss the mark with many people. So actual skills and leadership are required to pull that off.

Planned activities at LEAFFEST also suffer from dependence on weather. Had the weather been offset one day, we might have had a stupendous solar balloon flight on Saturday morning and the entire weekend would have been different for us. Had the wind been different for our time in the high clearing, we might have introduced several people to great kite flying and their experience would be more memorable and useful than it was.

There are some limitations imposed on LEAFFEST by the venue (plumbing, internet, coasters, sleeping for wimpy city folk). These are mostly immovable limits if you want free access to my house, yard, garden, woods, stream, etc. Public Lab meetups can happen anywhere in the world but the one that happens at my place will never be much bigger or fancier than what happened this weekend. (By the way, the internet connection did not suffer much from multiple users, it’s always that unreliable. Most of rural America does not have reliable broadband, period.)

I agree that a structured activity or two introducing the newcomers to Public Lab tools could be well received. But I don’t know how many people would prefer that to just watching the Public Lab veterans try new things. The newcomers can participate in those hacking/experimental activities and also gain firsthand experience and insight into how those tools are developed. That might be more instructive than instruction would be. It would be good to hear from LEAFFESTers about which approach they would prefer. Jeff and Liz did a lot of work on various projects with zero or one or two people. Would other people have preferred to join in on these sessions? Or would you have preferred that they got less done but set aside time to explain the basics to you?

I have a hypothesis that the most important thing about LEAFFEST is that people who interact online get to see each other and have a few conversations. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference at all what else happens when they are in Vermont. The food, the landscape, and the mid-century modern artifacts might facilitate these social interactions and a successful LEAFFEST more than any agenda could.


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Lovely Chris! Except for the gratuitous comment about "wimpy city folk" -- come down off your mountain and tell me how you fare on the city streets ;)

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