HoHoTO is Happening This Thursday!

An overhead view of the packed dance floor at HoHoTO

hohoto logoHoHoTO began three years ago as a Twitter conversation among Toronto’s tech and social media crowd and turned into the Toronto Christmas fundraising event. This Thursday, December 15th, marks the fourth HoHoTO party, and tickets are still available. Since the very first HoHoTO party, the event has raised over $200,000 for the Daily Bread Food Bank (making them one of the largest donors) and this year’s goal is to raise $65,000. The unofficial slogan of HoHoTO is “You party for a night; they eat for a week”. Good times, good cause, what’s not to like?

If you’re in town and want to enjoy an amazing party with great music, dancing, drinks and other fun goings-on with some of the people who make Accordion City the special place that it is, you’ll want to buy a ticket now.

If you can’t make it to HoHoTO – or like me, you’re not in town that night (I’m in Ottawa for the week) – you can still do good by making a donation (visit the HoHoTO site and click the “Donate” button). With a million Toronto-area people having had to make a visit to a food bank in the past year, your help is needed, and there’s nothing more in the spirit of the holidays than giving.

If you’d like to find out more about HoHoTO, check out this Canada Newswire piece: HoHoTO Feeds Hungry Torontonians for the Fourth Year Running.

Geek Life The Current Situation

Conflict Minerals and Blood Tech

conflict minerals

Say the word “silicon” and chances are, you’ll think of technology. After all, silicon’s relationship to tech – it’s part of what makes transistors and chips – has been part of popular culture for decades, from the “Silicon chip inside her head” opening line from the Boomtown Rats’ song I Don’t Like Mondays to “Silicon Valley” as the nickname for the suburban expanse between San Francisco and San Jose.

Silicon is only part of the equation, however. The chips that drive our computers, mobile phones and assorted electronica are actually a “layer cake” consisting not only of silicon, but also oxide and metal.

There’s also the matter of key non-chip components like capacitors, which momentarily store an electrical charge. They’re made of thin layers of conductive metal separated by a thin layer of insulator. We use their “buffering” capabilities to smooth out “spiky” electrical currents, filter through signal interference, pick out a specific frequency from a spectrum of them and other “cleaning up” operations.

One of the metals used in the manufacture of capacitors is tantalum, which you can extract from a metal ore called coltan, whose name is short for “columbite-tantalite”. About 20% of the world’s supply of tantalum comes from Congo, and proceeds of from the sale of coltan are how their warlords – the scum driving the world’s most vicious conflict, and who’ve turned the country into the rape capital of the world – are bankrolled.

Nichloas Kristof of the New York Times wrote about metals like tantalum purchased from Congo – conflict metals – in an op-ed yesterday:

I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me. In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.

Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”

Yet now there’s a grass-roots movement pressuring companies to keep these “conflict minerals” out of high-tech supply chains. Using Facebook and YouTube, activists are harassing companies like Apple, Intel and Research in Motion (which makes the BlackBerry) to get them to lean on their suppliers and ensure the use of, say, Australian tantalum rather than tantalum peddled by a Congolese militia.

He also points to the Enough Project’s latest video, which used humour and a reference to the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” TV commercials to draw the public’s attention to conflict metals and to encourage them to contact electronics manufacturers and ask them to be more vigilant when sourcing components:

The Enough Project says that auditing component supply chains at the smelters to see whether the metal was sources from “clean” places like Australia or Canada instead of lining the pockets of Congolese warlords would add about one cent to the price of a cellphone, and that this figure originates from within the industry. I’d happily pay a thousand times that for each of my devices – a mere ten bucks – to ensure that I wasn’t bankrolling rape and murder.

I’ll close this post with the closing paragraph from Kristof’s op-ed:

We may be able to undercut some of the world’s most brutal militias simply by making it clear to electronics manufacturers that we don’t want our beloved gadgets to enrich sadistic gunmen. No phone or tablet computer can be considered “cool” if it may be helping perpetuate one of the most brutal wars on the planet.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

Play Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Win 2 Tickets to HoHOTo

hoHOTo - August 18, 2009Nobody in Accordion City throws a charity event quite like its creative techies, and the latest such event is hoHOTo. It’s the summer sequel to HoHoTO, a charity party that got put together in mere days, not weeks or months, by some very ambitious Toronto techies on Twitter.

HoHOTo’s charity is the Daily Bread Food Bank, the organization dedicated to eliminating hunger in and around Toronto. They provide food to hungry people. offer support with issues that often accompany hunger – social benefits, housing, employment, immigration – and work to create social change to reduce poverty through research, education and advocacy.

A recent report from the Daily Bread Food Bank says:

A new report released today by the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) revealed that there has been an alarming increase in the number of persons turning to food banks in Ontario since last fall. Between September 2007 and September 2008, food banks in Ontario have reported an average increase of 13 per cent in the number of neighbours turning to them for support.

HoHOTo will take place tomorrow night at Suite 106 & Wetbar, located deep in clubland at Peter and Adelaide, from 7 p.m. until late, with DJs and cash bars plying their trade all night. Only 500 tickets were made available, with prices rising steadily as the event drew nearer. In these last hours before the event, tickets are now $40 each and it appears that only three or so dozen remain.

Microsoft logo with accordion

Microsoft, for whom I work as a Developer Evangelist, is a sponsor of the event and has provided me with two HoHOTo tickets to raffle off. I’ll make it simple – just email me at by 6:00 p.m. tonight and I’ll put your name into a lottery for those tickets. I’ll announce the winner on the blog tonight.