See you 2017…

If your 2017 was anything like mine, the year moved at lightening speed and was heavily loaded with projects focused on improving or protecting the lives of those around you.

Here’s my highlights of 2017…

This year it was also especially important to take a stand against racism and discrimination. I invested more time in learning and acknowledging what’s happening on a international and local scale and NPR’s Code Switch became one of my favourite podcasts for exploring how race, ethnicity and culture are shifting. I also participated in my first anti-racism rally together with about 4,000 other awesome people at the Stand up to Racism Vancouver Rally on August 19. I plan to continue to show up to take a stand against racism in 2018.

#BlondesAgainstRacism #standuptoracism

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To keep myself physically and mentally sane, I started SoulCycle to boost by cardio (something I normally run away from) and allowed myself to say no to things (for a change) when I was running low on energy.

I also welcomed Stanley – a giant, floppy, English Mastiff puppy – into my life. His curiosity with how this world works and unbiased love of humanity are always the highlight of my day! And I love running his instagram account (which is now more popular than mine)!

Next year looks to be another year where much passion and vigour will be needed to implement positive change – and I’m excited to take action.

I also recognize what an important role mentors, friends and people who just inspire you to want and be better play in your life and the projects you work on. Thank you Bob, Andrea, Renee, Mohammed, Aaron, Davin, Drew, Adrian and Mark among others!

Why I’m hosting Vancouver’s Open Data Day Hackathon

I’m thrilled to be hosting the 2017 Vancouver Open Data Day Hackathon!

Our President @gndv starting off the 2016 #VODDay #OpenDataDay Hackathon

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Some people assume this is what I do for a living. It’s not. I have a pretty awesome (and appropriately demanding) job as the Director of Communications and Engagement with the College of Pharmacists of BC.

So why am I spending nights organizing #VODday when I would really love to just Netflix and chill (or just sleep)?

Here’s why:

This year, recognizing the importance of open data and transparency is especially important.

Just as important is Is is looking at how open data and civic tech can help support communities, whether it’s our local homeless, newcomers, or groups that find themselves discriminated against.

And finally, tools that empower everyone living here, improve efficiency, reduce waste, improve transportation and support the environment will help us build the community we want to live in.

I hope you dig deep, and find your own reason to participate in International Open Data Day.

Join me for the #VODday hackathon on March 4!

If you are interested in being a sponsor, email us at

Periscope This!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a handful of people ask me about how I use periscope to broadcast events.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Periscope and using it for events – the ability to live stream anything with only a smartphone, and without any additional costs, makes broadcasting events accessible in a whole new way.

Anyone can now easily broaden their reach, increase engagement or host open meetings that are actually “open”.

I challenge your organization to ask why you would not want to make this happen for your next event.

My #Periscope kit   A photo posted by Gillian Vrooman (@gndv) on

With this in mind, here’s my advice for those who want to get started…

Continue reading Periscope This!

Hosting a hackathon? Here’s how to market it!

Hackathons are exciting events that bring communities together, drive innovation, inspire action and are an exhilarating experience. If you haven’t participated in one, give it a try. They are an excellent opportunity to directly contribute to a cause you care about.

Our President @gndv starting off the 2016 #VODDay #OpenDataDay Hackathon

A photo posted by Open Data Society of BC (@opendatabc) on

Some hackathons are competition focused – full of budding entrepreneurs with ideas to flush out and prototype. Others are focused on social good – tackling local or global problems, or bringing transparency to important issues through storytelling and data visualizations.

Hackathons are often run by hardworking volunteers, nonprofits, or on the side of your local “do-gooder’s” desk. As a result, hackathon organizers  may not always have as much capacity as they would like to create a rockstar hackathon. But what they lack in capacity they make up for in passion. I also believe that if you’ve organized a hackathon and haven’t suffered (at least a little), you probably haven’t done it right – just like a good work out.

It’s my appreciation for these hardworking hackathon coordinators that draws me to lend a hand to local hackathons and provide advice based on my experience. I find effectively marketing their hackathon is an area where many need the most help. Continue reading Hosting a hackathon? Here’s how to market it!

What should a BC Developer’s Exchange look like?

When DataBC asked for my help in reaching Vancouver’s local open data, development and startup community to host the first BC Developer’s Exchange information session, I was thrilled to have the Open Data Society of BC host this event and bring a great group together to provide input on this new program.

BC Developers Exchange OpenDataBC Event

The BC Developer’s Exchange is focused on creating an “exchange” between BC’s public and tech sectors – creating a path for entrepreneurs to use BC public sector digital resources and to have their innovations adopted back by government.

How to commercialize and build services products from open data (or other publicly available resources) is a complex topic with varying opinions – and it needs the ideas, experience and input of the BC’s tech and startup communities more than ever.

Not all open data will hold commercial value from a business context – many data sets’ greatest value are in addressing social issues and providing opportunities to improve transparency, efficiency and data-driven decision making. But where there may be opportunities for commercial value and new business models through access to public sector data, lets explore the possibilities thoroughly!

The OpenDataBC BCDev event in Vancouver at the Hive was held in April and over 100 members of the local Vancouver open data, developers and startup community came out and shared their ideas on what’s needed to make this Developer’s Exchange work. Among the panel that started the discussion was Mischa Steiner-Jovic, founder and CEO of Awesense, and Adam LaFrance, co-founder & CEO of Knomos. Together, they shared their insight as startups using public sector data.

The new BC Developer’s Exchange and Province of BC GitHub accounts, and the opportunities the Github methodology offers for public sector resources generated a considerable amount of interest, with many participants agreeing that the BC Developer’s Exchange GitHub is a good place to provide input.

Events were also held by Accelerate Okanagan, BCTIA, Viatech at and the new Code for Canada (Vancouver Community).

The BC Developer’s Exchange needs the local tech and startup community to test out the “exchange” and provide ideas and feedback on how this program can work. There’s a variety of ways you can provide your input and see what’s already happening:

Whether you are skeptical, uncertain, curious or already using some of the resources, I hope you’ll take the time to learn a little more and provide your input on what a BC Developer’s Exchange should include.

Should I build an app?

United Nations of smartphone operating systemsHaving helped develop an iPhone app and having my “techie-in-a-skirt” rep amongst my colleagues and friends, I often get asked “Should I build an app?” Last  week I was asked just that.

My answer always starts with “It depends”.

Delivering a mobile friendly service is not the question here. ComScore recently revealed that  75% of Canadians own a smartphone in their 2014 Canada Digital Future in Focus report which means you need a mobile friendly solution if you want to be relevant. The question is, which mobile solution is right for you?

Generally, you have three main mobile options: Web Apps, Native Apps, and Hybrid Apps. But before you get into these options, you need to determine what exactly you are endeavoring to do before weighing your mobile options. Continue reading Should I build an app?

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Mr. Churchill's Secretary My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While this book spiked my interest enough to pick it up from Book Warehouse, a small independent   bookstore in Vancouver on Main street, it never quite lived up to its potential. A historical fiction novel set in 1940 and focusing on  WWII on the home front, and in particular the evolving role of women during the period, it simply lacked the depth of character to seem even remotely realistic -I was disappointed. I found heroine Maggie Hope confusing with her inner dialog not always aligning with her actions, and often inconsistent altogether.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary does include does include cryptography, spies, murder, and intrigue, and of course a depiction of Winston Churchill himself, however you may find this is not quite enough to make this a memorable read without a greater depth of character development.


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Walls of Wind

Walls of WindWalls of Wind by J.A. McLachlan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if males and females were completely different species from each other… Walls of Wind captivates you with a civilization where this is the exactly the case.

Bria Ghen, and the challenges they face as an evolving community, are masterfully illustrated through a series of relatable, and at times heartbreaking characters that speak to conflicts between security and truth.

The Goldfinch

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Donna Tartt writes in raw but artistically detailed style that allows you to easily enter Theo’s conscious an experience his loss first hand.

This book is written beautifully. Its depiction of how grief and guilt play out following tragedy is one of the most realistic I have read in a modern setting. Theo’s life takes a dramatic turn when a tragic event leaves him utterly alone.

Donna Tartt’s narration of the years that follow is a very realistic illustration of Survivor’s Guilt, which is recognized as a form of post traumatic stress disorder. While some may find Theo’s decision making outrageous, frustrating and inexcusable,  looking deeper you see that it is born out of deep sadness and a profound sense of guilt for both his parents deaths that drastically impacts his mental health.

Those, like myself, who experience Survivor’s Guilt, know that it often prevents you from believing you deserve to heal or deserve to be happy. I see this is Theo as well.

What is unfortunate is that Theo cannot bring himself to be honest with Pippa, who was injured in the same bombing and lost her grandfather “Welty”. She is one of the few who could have the capacity to understand. But Theo holds back.

I hope The Goldfinch can remind us to cherish those close to us. I hope it can prompt us to empathize with those who struggle to work through their grief. I hope it can make us look deeper into those we cannot understand.
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