Farset Labs 3rd Birthday Anniversary Celebration – 13th April

Can you believe it has been 3 years since we opened our doors?

We’re going to have a bit of a party, and Farset Labs invite you to come and celebrate with us on Monday 13th April – as a thank you for helping us on our way, and to look forward to many more years of nurturing local creative and technology endeavours.

Please do invite friends and well-wishers.

As well as being a general “Open/Social Evening”, we will of course have cake, snacks and drinks, plus a selection of our best boardgames and multiplayer video-games, plenty of opportunities to experiment with some of our projects and tools, and the all important “traditional” (not yet, but it will be) Farset birthday raffle, with some great prizes available, kindly donated to us by local and more distant organisations.

Some great raffle prizes have already been contributed by such generous benefactors as Intel BelfastBrightwaterBufferBelfast Roller DerbyMiss McKeown’s extraordinary teas, rehabstudio, and our own excellent Farset brewers will be offering some of their latest.

We’re looking forward to seeing your wonderful face!

You are also welcome to BYOB.

(Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.)

24-Hour Comics Day: Tell Your Own Story

Farset Labs will be hosting 24 Hour Comics Day in Belfast – a world-wide event to create comics in 24 hours.

Scott McCloud presents at Geraphic Storytelling Festival in 2011
Scott McCloud presents at Graphic Storytelling Festival in 2011

Have you ever wanted to create your own comic?

Take the 24-hour comics challenge, bring some pens/pencils and paper, and complete a full comic in a single day – add to the rich seam of graphical 24-hour story-telling founded by comics legend Scott McCloud and continued as an annual global phenomenon every year in October:

Other comics artists and writers will be there throughout the day. Some scanning/photography equipment will be available for final submission to the 24-Hour Comics Day web-site. Free Wi-Fi will be available to all participants, plus you can chill out in our games lounge!

Snacks and drinks will also be on offer, so please consider making a small donation to the venue in return. Doors will open at 10am on Saturday 4th October, and participants are free to come and go throughout.

Register now via Eventbrite

Come along and create a wordless graphical narrative, or write a text-piece with a visual flow. Even if you don’t think you can create plot, find someone who can. Most importantly: create something 🙂


Forbidden Planet Belfast are kindly donating a raffle prize for the event, and we will have some art supply spot prizes for some of the cool ideas expected to manifest themselves


There is a great (if very long) guide to surviving a 24-Hour comics event available at the following link: http://24hcd.clubexpress.com/docs.ashx?id=117356

Many thanks to Patrick Brown of http://paddybrown.co.uk and Ann Harrison of http://bunsenbunnies.com for their help!

Open Evening

All the time, we’re talking to people about what we do at Farset Labs, and often, when we talk about our amazing community, people have two reactions:

  1. Awesome! These people can help me learn and grow!
  2. Ahh crap, I don’t want to butt in on their clique
And so, to try and fix that secondary fear, we’re having an informal Open Evening for anyone interested in coming down and checking the place out. There will be drinks and noms and projects to tinker with, so if you’ve been ‘undecided’ for a while; now is the opportunity to see for yourself why this is such a great place to work/play!
Don’t forget to sign up and share the Facebook Event!

Week in Review

Well, it’s been an interesting few weeks.

Open Data Playground

After several abortive attempts over the past few months (mea culpa!), Open Data Playground on Thursday evening was a blast.

Things started off with a good hearty conversation between the attendees and our visitors from the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Communications office, Michael and Caroline. They were there to show off and to consult our community about the recently released NIAssembly Open Data API. (They also have a fantastic mobile webapp btw)

First off, I’ll personally say that compared to the likes of data.gov.uk, the NIA API is much cleaner and easier to use quickly (We’re slowly putting together a Python module to make life even easier).

In terms of the data available at the minute, they have Member information going back to ’98, (i.e. who was in each Assembly, who were they representing, etc), Question/Answers put to the Assembly floor since around ’07  (including text-search), and another data set of Organisations, listing Departments, Committees, Political Parties, and All Party Groups.

While all this information is well and good, the major points that came out of the round-table discussion were:

  • The Licence under which these datasets are exposed is perfectly relaxed, and is a model that further public and indeed private bodies should emulate (i.e. do whatever you want, make as much money as you like, it’s all yours, just do us a favour; if it’s convenient, give us a solid attribution)
  • The Datasets are still growing; Michael aim’s to have information on votes cast exposed by Q4, and more datasets are being developed, but that political inertia was slowing the adoption of similar practices across other departments.
The conversation expanded away from just NIA’s data to the concept of Open Data itself. Emphasis was made that the best Data Scientists, and the best Data, source from multiple boring silos and synthesise exciting or intriguing information across those silos.
It is not the place of the resource generator to cherry-pick what they think is interesting.
The follow on topic of debate was centred around the required skills. Willis McGregor from SkillSet made the point that there is both a combination of technical and non-technical skills needed at both the data curation and the data analysis ends, and neither area is well catered for at the minute from anything other than ‘on the job’ learning.
The skills discussed centred around, for the curation side, an almost ‘librarian attitude’, to both the raw data itself and the architecture of that data. On the other side of the data divide (the consumers/analysts), a strong combination of statistics, programming, and a certain amount of, as William Cully described, ‘childlike enquiry’, to explore and recognise areas where correlated datasets don’t match where they should. The act of analysis was discussed as being a compromise between the standard journalistic ‘hunt for bad anamolies’ (the example given was financial transactions, *cough cough*, but also an interest in finding unexpected correlations between datasets.
The discussion naturally cycled back to NIA, via Healthcare data. The observation was made that the current data policies of the healthcare establishment in Northern Ireland mean that data is not even compatible between local trusts, and developing a common open-data standard would require major political force and justification, but Caroline suggested that new legislation coming through the European and Westminster governments would require just actions to be enforced.
Looking back out at other datasets, there was some discussion about what data the BBC could provide and what interesting stuff could be done with it, such as crowd sourced archive classification, combined with already implemented voice recognition metadata generation.
All in all it was a very interesting and active event, that settled into several hours of post-officialdom-networking with several a few beers and snacks. Everyone is very much looking forward to the next Open Data Playground, where we’ll hopefully be presenting a roundup of tools that make exploring open data easier, such as APIgee, Recline, and Pandas. We hope to see you there!

EMF 2012

Farset Labs has been cordially invited to an exciting event in England in the coming weeks; Electromagnetic Field is a non-profit three day camping festival for
people with an inquisitive mind or an interest in making things:
hackers, geeks, scientists, engineers, artists, and craftspeople.

It’s taking place in Milton Keynes between the 31st August and the 2nd
September and is inspired by European camps such as the Chaos
Communication Camp and Hacking At Random, which means that we have an
absurd internet connection to a field, and power to every tent.

There will be talks and workshops on everything from genetic
modification to lockpicking, blacksmithing to high-energy physics,
reverse engineering to electronic engineering, quadcopters to beer
brewing and crocheting to carpentry. If you decide to talk about
something, there’s space for you to do so, and plenty of people who want
to listen.

The campsite will be littered with interesting things to play with and
explore, from ride-on tanks to giant dinosaurs. And more lasers than you
can shake a laser-covered stick at.

Attendees are encouraged to form villages and put on activities for
other people around the camp, and we’re going to have villages covering
everything from gaming to 3D printing. If you’d like to form a village,
get in touch!

Because EMF is an event all about learning things and meeting new people
we really want to get as many hackerspace members along as possible, so
for the next two weeks we’re offering a discount off the full ticket

The following link will grant a discount to anyone who clicks it for the
next two weeks. Pass it around to your members and anyone who might be


 BCS Gathering Of Lightning Prep

Another event that’s had a spotty start is Gathering Of Lightning, a series of community driven lightning talks about, well, whatever you like!

So far we have lined up:

Me: Chatting about the current state of Farset Labs

William: Chatting about the current state of his Wireless Localisation work

Daniel: Chatting about, in his words, “clouds ‘n’ shit”

Andrew: talking about Jotterz

TBC: Chatting about the plans for ‘Mermaid’

But the big draw of GoL is the interaction; these are not your classic “sit and listen and ask questions when you’re allowed”; we encourage a healthy amount of interactivity between the chatters and the sitters! Also, if you have anything that crosses your mind on the night, you are more than welcome to jump in with your own rant!

This event is co-hosted with BCS, who are providing the ‘refreshments’ for the event. This isn’t just an opportunity to learn something about what the community is doing, but also to chat with some of the BCS contingent that will be joining us. Try to be nice 🙂

See you there! 


Another ‘back-burner’ project that’s smoldering away is the adaptation of an old electric wheelchair (kindly donated by Angie, give her many hugs!) into a weapon of mass destruction telepresence robot and guide. We’re currently chatting between a few ‘Culture’ organisations and with our friends at Fab Labs to put together a set of events where the top of the robot is CAD developed in Farset Labs, prototyped on site with the loan of Fab Lab‘s 3D printer, and then later, taking everyone up to Fab Labs and actually building the prototyped parts full scale.
The working title ‘Mermaid’ is because it’s not very sexy from the waist down. Not my fault. Not my idea. Not naming names.

That’s All Folks

Well, that’s all we have time for this week. If you feel that we’ve missed anything or forgotten anything important, please let us know. I’ll see you all in the space!