Code Sisters: Closing the Gender Gap

I am happy to announce that Saturday, May 23rd will be the OFFICIAL kickoff of “Code Sisters,” a monthly, structured tutorial/workshop session for women learning to code. Each month, from 9:00 am to noon, we will teach a beginner level web development topic in a workshop/tutorial format. After a lunch break, there will be time for practice, project work, and mentoring.

These sessions are geared to help participants procure valuable skills, as well as gain the confidence to form their own software projects and join the hacker community at large. We expect women who complete these courses will be able to share their own software projects at events like the weekly Hack Nights that Gangplank hosts on Wednesdays.

In the meantime, the more advanced or adventurous have an open invitation to Hack Night and the “Code Purple” lounge, where Code Sisters and their “bros” can network, connect with mentors and project partners, and practice their skills.

If you know of a woman who might be interested in the group, please let her know about it. If you have skills and knowledge you want to share, please contact Ariel Strong <> or one of the people listed below.

We are actively looking for mentors – male or female – and would welcome your input and help as we put together future sessions.

Help from the Pirate Ship

From talking to ‘Plankers the last two months, I’ve gathered lots of ideas on how to structure an initiative to get more women into coding or just tech in general. I’ve heard many (sometimes opposite!) opinions on how to approach putting a Gangplank group together and lined up a number of potential mentors.

Thank you all. I appreciate the input, especially how to decide on a language and start learning as well as links to resources that we can use.

In fact, the response was so positive with so many good ideas, I wasn’t sure where to begin.

Opening up Code Sisters (unofficially operating at Gangplank since January) to a wider audience seemed like a logical place to start, but we needed a more structured format.

The dilemma was solved on Saturday, April 25th, after a Railsbridge Workshop for women hosted by Infusionsoft. Five Gangplankers attended the introductory Ruby on Rails event – Catherine Leyen, Eileen Kane, Ariel Strong, Trish Gillam, and Christopher Murray (who provided extraordinary technical support!).

There was consensus among Gangplank’s attendees that the format used for Railsbridge would be a perfect fit for Code Sisters’ purposes. The environment was nurturing and proved fruitful for learning a new skill. All of the women left with a decent understanding of the Ruby framework, thanks to the support of the team of volunteers, mentors and organizers who worked with each sub-group of the 50+ attendees.

On top of having a solid structure, Railsbridge provides their coursework online for free. It covers a variety of languages (Ruby on Rails, Javascript, CSS, HTML) and we intend to take full advantage. Soo…

The Shape of Things to Come…

This is only the beginning. We really don’t know how things will take shape, and we will adapt as we go. We want you to join us in this adventure and maybe eventually even steer the ship. In the spirit of Gangplank, we will be dangerous. Yaarrrgh!


The People That You Meet Each Day

I spied him over the top of my monitor. He’d walked in well enough, but I could tell by his confused look that he had no idea what to do now that he was inside. This happens frequently. I’d seen that befuddled look on the faces of Gangplank newcomers countless times.

As a Gangplank veteran, I consider it my duty to make visitors feel welcome. Plus, I needed a break from writing marketing copy.

“Today’s subject is Software-defined Networking, boys and girls!” I’d loudly announced to the 15 odd entrepreneurs working out of Gangplank as I arrived earlier. (The crowd had returned my excitement with odd looks and loud groans.)

“Hi, how’s it going?” I asked as I rose from behind my monitor and walked towards the visitor. Perhaps he was an entrepreneur, looking for a home.

He tells me his name, Todd. He wants to know how much is it to use a computer here. He’d like to download a large file that someone sent him via email.

“You don’t pay anything to use the facilities here,” I tell him. “At least not monetarily.”

His confused look returns.

“Walk with me,” I tell him, laughing to myself. “We’ll get you squared away.”

We walk past the hot desks, large tables with office chairs where anyone who wants to can come in, set up a laptop and get some work done.

“There’s no charge here,” I repeat as we walk. “Because payment is in social capital.”

“Uhhhhhhhh-huh,” he says, in that tone that says “I have no idea what you are saying.”

We walk past the 3D printers that line the back half of the main Gangplank workspace. I continue giving Todd an introduction.

“Basically, if you find Gangplank is a space you like working from, and the people here a community you find valuable, all that is asked to use Gangplank’s resources is that you find a way to contribute something back. What you contribute is up to you.”

He’s not from around here, he says. He’s passing through town on tour. Just wants to use a computer, “How much?” he asks.

I shake my head and chuckle.

We continue straight down the hall, past the free library, buzzing conference rooms, and podcast studio. Finally, we arrive at the Gangplank computer lab. He seems a very nice guy, about 50 years old I’d guess, wearing glasses, a gently worn pair of blue jeans, and respectable short sleeved dress shirt.

I help him log on to one of the eight iMac computers in the lab, all freely available to the public. I make small talk while he accesses his email.

“So what is this file?”

“It’s a pilot for a TV show that I’m in. ” he says.

“Uhhhhh-huh” I say using the same tone he had earlier. An actor, just about to make his big break. Yeah, right.

Todd downloads the video. Over the next 45 minutes I am amazed and delighted at his talent. As we watch, we talk about life, swap stories about our kids, and generally just get to be pals.

The people you meet at Gangplank are random and diverse – and always interesting. I love this place.

Todd Oliver, nationally known comedian, ventriloquist, and past performer on America’s Got Talent.


Novel Critique Group: First Meeting Report

The first meeting of the Novel Critique group was a great success. In it, we defined the terms the group. We covered the difference between a critique and criticism, as well as discussing the submission guidelines and methods. Our group will be using a Google Drive folder to share files, allowing both Word and Google Doc file formats.

We had five people at our group, and we are eager to see how the group grows. Our group size will be limited by the total word count submitted. For now, we will be working under the guidelines for the Aspiring Novelists, limiting submissions to 5000 words, and a total word count of no more than 40K words for each meeting.

We look forward to our next meeting, on March 31st.
For more details, or if you want to join the group, contact David at:

Community Meeting Notes, July 29, 2014

The overall topic of today’s meeting was identifying opportunities we have to improve ourselves in a big way. In the process of discussing these items, we touched on many issues. The discussion was disorganized and bounced around a lot, but I’ve loosely gathered some of the ideas discussed into a few points, delivered here in no order.

Content Creation

We identified a critical need to tell our story. Via blog posts, updated information content on our website, more podcasts, #whyGP videos, etc. “A lot of cool shit is happening here everyday, but we don’t tell others about it.” There was a challenge from Jeremy S. that everyone should write one piece of content a quarter for the space. Additionally, it was suggested that groups that host events here should be obligated to provide a blog post recapping their event as a precondition for future use. We discussed identifying major content gaps on the website, etc, and making a to-do hit list for filling it in.

260, Can We Help?

We discussed whether we in the community could help finish the 260 building. We need to reach out to Derek and Jade, who could not be present, for more info, and to see if it needs to help at all.

City Communication, Relationship

We discussed how many of us feel helpless in the run-up to our renewal with the City of Chandler, which provides major funding for our Chandler space. Beyond “telling our story” as discussed above, we committed to finding a new representative to the city from within our ranks. This person would be challenged to divide up tasks and help us better understand what we personally can do to grow our relationship with the city. To discover how this will happen, however, we also need the advice of Derek and Jade.

To-Do List/Kanban Board/Trello/Etc

GP Chandler has needs, from material needs, to content needs, to volunteer needs. We discussed ideas how we can coordinate the communicating of these needs. We discussed avoiding a physical to-do board, like the Kanban board of a few years ago. We will look into a possible online solution and get back with everyone next week.

Overall, the meeting ended with more questions than answers, but some people left after giving the commitment to find some answers by next week.

Community Meeting Notes, July 23, 2014

Note: We did not hold a July 21st meeting.

Red Bull Wings Team Visit, Monday, July 28th, 2014

Whether its Mountain Dew, Monster, or Red Bull, Gangplankers are no strangers to sugary, caffeinated drinks, regardless of what the GP Chandler Health Initiative will say.

Our relationship with Red Bull goes even deeper though, as they regularly send the “Red Bull Wings Team” to share free samples at various events of ours, including last weekend’s Startup Weekend Chandler. This week, a regional marketing director asked a special favor of us. They are filming a new training video for the “Wings Team” and need an office/work environment to use. Because they love the layout and atmosphere of Gangplank, they’d like to fill that need at our space.

The community discussed whether this was okay. We agreed yes, given the condition that everyone be provided with adequate warning and an option to not participate. It was also asked that they turn on the cameras only after they’ve announced their arrival.

The “Wings Team” and video crew will be at GP Chandler around 11am to 1pm on Monday, July 28th. You’ve been notified!

Downloading on Startup Weekend Chandler

The Startup Weekend Chandler organizing team wishes to thank all who helped out and/or participated in last weekend’s Startup Weekend Chandler event.

Our winning team was Rival Ripper, which included GP Chandler regulars Michael and Hans M., and runner up was Shark Bite Boards, featuring the work of our own Jenna C. Congrats and good luck everyone!

Trish G. announces departure from role as Executive Director

Trish G. has been playing the role of Executive Director of the global Gangplank organization for nearly two years. She announced that she will be leaving her role effective 8/8. She thanked us for our support and encouraged us to keep up the good work. She said that she still will be around to a varying degree, depending a lot on what her next career move entails. THANK YOU TRISH!

260 Update/#90days #blameJade

Construction on 260 has slowed to a near-halt the last few months and Trish G. provided us an update.

“The delays are caused by needing to re-think a few design issues. Older buildings come with hidden surprises, and ours is no exception. That said, work was active this week and should pick back up again soon.”


Upcoming City of Chandler Contract Renewal

The GP Chandler team is preparing to submit paperwork to the city to renew our city contract that provides a majority of the funding from the city for Gangplank Chandler. Keep your ears open for ways you can personally support this. The council is expected to vote on this topic later this year.

Discussion on the Future of the Brownbag

Jeremy S. announced his commitment to restoring quality to the Brownbag programming.

Jeremy S. assembled a team of supporters for Brownbags that will keep them running smoothly from here forward. He wishes to point out the following people for their support: Jeremy S. (Scheduling, Lead), Catherine L (Speaker Support), Ita U. (Video Recording, Emcee), Jody H (Promotions, Video Recording & Emcee Backup), and Hans M (Post Brownbag Blogging).

Because Brownbags are important to the current city contract, he explained how he made a strong effort to schedule out Brownbags for the remainder of the year. He explained that this is merely a patch, however, because recent lackluster support for Brownbags are a consequence of many in the community seeing them as having lost value.

Trish G. and Jeremy S. explained that a new vision for the Brownbag is being discussed for implementation in the new year. They will seek further feedback from interested persons and finalize the details later. That said, they previewed the concept:

In the beginning, Brownbags were an opportunity to teach and learn. In a lot of cases, the teacher was merely sharing a recently acquired knowledge of their own. It was a weekly personal and professional development hour for Integrum and Forty. Since then, the Brownbag grew from a small, in-house training event to a speaker’s event that moved more toward an inspirational storytelling and/or pitch platform. We are not Tedx or Ignite, but in a way, we act like one. This means the training and learning value has been replaced with an entertainment value at times, and therefore lacks much value to the average Gangplanker. Our vision is to return to the concept of learning and teaching knowledge to the peer-to-peer inside. We want to introduce the concept of Learning Loops, and we’d like to challenge the community to bring the Brownbag back to an event of the community where outsiders are welcome versus an event where we bring outsiders in that don’t resonate as well with the community.

As this idea is further developed, more details will be shared. If this reboot plan goes forward, it will take effect in early 2015.

Next Week’s Brownbag: Kieran Thompson on Kickstarting a Local Film

All that said, the Wednesday, July 30th, Brownbag will be Kieran Thompson speaking on the experience of Kickstarting the Production of a Local Film. His description:

In March 2012, a group of local Arizona filmmakers used Kickstarter to fund the production of our first feature film. “Broken Leg”, raised over $24,000 from over 200 backers. I’ll share what we learned while planning and executing a successful campaign and discuss how we’ve engaged our backers throughout the entire life of the project. “Broken Leg” will be released on DVD, Blu-ray,m and online August 1st.

Please share this with friends and colleagues! It promises to have some deep insight into running a Kickstarted campaign, as well as some entertaining stories from an up-and-coming Arizona industry.

1st Annual AZChaserCon Recap

Last week, I had the pleasure of welcoming Christian Cleary (@monsoon_madness) and the Arizona Storm Chaser community to Gangplank to host the first (and hopefully annual) Arizona Storm Chaser Convention, or AZChaserCon.

Storm chasers play a key role in assisting intergovernmental organizations in understanding local weather events while they also help the local and national news report many of the fascinating Arizona weather events with their photos, videos, and stories. Arizona has some uniquely beautiful and fascinating weather events that are only known to the world by the work of these dedicated citizen scientists and their thrilling antics in the southwest deserts.

Christian Cleary, known best by his twitter handle @monsoon_madness, knows the power of community and collaboration in the tight-knit circle that makes up local storm chasers, government meteorologists, and news media. He was inspired to bring everyone together and found Gangplank to be the perfect host.

During the day-long event, held Saturday June 14th, Christian welcomed the likes of 3TV’s Royal Norman, 12 News’s Dr Matt Price, and National Weather Service’s Dr Ken Waters, as well as many members of chaser and citizen science community. They came together to collaborate, socialize, learn, and share the crazy antics of their hobby as they ready for another Arizona Monsoon season. There was community socializing, occasional jokes about haboobs, nerdy weather talk, and tons of great pictures of local storms.

I asked Chris to share more about his event and he wrote this for us:

Gangplank is the definition of community. When you walk through the door, the environment is uplifting, full with positive vibes and great people. And if you’re tech savvy, trust me, this is the place to be.

I live in Chandler and have a huge passion for weather. I storm chase the monsoon storms as well as tornadoes on the Great Plains. Recently, I decided to host a conference specifically for chasing the AZ monsoon that would bring weather enthusiasts, weather professionals, scientists, spotters, and storm chasers together to network, share experience, and inspire one another. A friend suggested I look into Gangplank as a possible venue.

I scheduled a time to meet with Chris L, who gave me a tour and invited me to host my event there. He also introduced me to Eileen K and the two of them helped guide me and set this conference up. On the day of the event, Jeremy S volunteered his time to host us and helped me with technical issues.

On June 14th, I hosted the first ever Arizona Chaser Conference at Gangplank, Chandler. The event exceeded all of my expectations. All of the people who attended the conference had nothing but great things to say. They enjoyed the facilities and the conference. Huge shout out to Chris, Eileen, Jeremy, and the whole Gangplank Community for making this possible. I can’t wait to host AZChaserCon next year at this amazing place. I hope that I can give back to the Gangplank community what they have given me. Without their support and sponsorship I would not have been able to host this event.

Well, Chris, let me give you and your people some praise too: you guys were a great group and gracious considerate guests. We loved having you join our community and share yours with us. We look forward to AZChaserCon ’15!

For more info check these out:

Hacking the Future of Humanity – TEDxLivermore

Originally posted on

On June 8th, 2013 I spoke at TEDxLivermore about Hacking the Future of Humanity. The videos were recently published and now you can watch it for yourself.

From the Youtube Video:

Jade Meskill believes we have a choice: we can continue to condemn our children to a life of mediocrity through our apathy….or we can deliver them a future made of magnificence. Delving into the true hacker ethic, Jade poses the question: “How do you hack the system to leave our kids a magnificent future?”

The core principals of hacking: openness, sharing, decentralization of authority and free access to information, are shared from the perspective of someone who began a hackers’ life before becoming a teen. Jade also shares his core belief that the most important aspect of the hacker mentality is world improvement. According to Jade, the original definition of the word ‘hacker,’ (before it meant invasion of privacy or people taking over your computer), bespoke of people who were insanely curious about the new world of technology, of communication, and of computing power. Hackers were pioneers in a new frontier, building the basis of what fuels our modern, tech-driven world.

Jade Meskill works in the highly dynamic area of culture change, team improvement and organizational transformation. In this talk he discusses how his early education through Montessori school was a perfect match for supporting his penchant for creative exploration. He attributes the Montessori explorative learning style as a basis for his success as a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Gangplank, the best collaborative workspace for creative people and innovative companies in Metro Phoenix. Gangplank is an unusual shared workspace that, instead of charging a fee, demands your energy, your time, and your passion for true co-creation. It is as much a set of values and cultural beliefs as it is a shared work environment, and it is growing, with venues in various cities in the US and Canada.

Learn more about Gangplank at

TEDxLivermore is organized by people from Livermore California who believe in the power of ideas to change the world. The mutual dependence of education and innovation means schools, industry and the broader community can join together to build an ecosystem where innovation + education can cross-fertilize and thrive.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

New Website Coming (Real) Soon

For years we have struggled with creating a site that helps people all over the world engage with Gangplank. Having multiple locations, each with a different set of initiatives, numerous events, and so many things happening in the Gangplank movement can be intimidating.

Instead of waiting to be perfect, we are going to Be Dangerous. This month you will see some major changes to our site. We will be launching a new, extremely simple, theme. We can figure out what is and is not working, and quickly iterate to improve the site for everyone.

Visit our github project to get involved and make the Gangplank experience better for everyone. Any and all skillsets are welcome.

Gangplank is My Extended Family

Guest Post by: Francine Hardaway

First let me tell you that I’m not what you think of as the average Gangplanker. (BTW, there isn’t one.) I don’t code, I’m a woman, and I’m probably twenty-five years older than everyone else. But they never allow me to feel that way, and they inspire me every day.

I discovered Gangplank back in its beginning, when the offices were in Integrum’s space over the candy distributor. But that’s not what drew me in. As a long-time member of the Phoenix tech business community, I was attracted to the crazy atmosphere, the pirate trappings, and the “be dangerous” attitude. The “be dangerous” was something that fit my own lifestyle.

When Gangplank moved into a bigger space, Ed and I decided to be anchors, whatever that means. I think it means you give more back to the community, both within Gangplank and surrounding it, than you get. And you do that because you know nothing can happen if you are working alone. Derek, Jade, Josh, James, Chuck, Chase – some still at Gangplank, many now graduated – made me feel like we were all in this together, whatever it was. It was like going on a scary Disney ride with a group of friends. Nothing bad could happen if you were with them.

The third location appears to be the charm. By this time, we sort of knew what we were doing and who we wanted to be. We didn’t want to be an incubator. Others could do that. Rather, we wanted to be an open collaborative workspace, reaching out into the community.

I my own case, I mentor at Gangplank at least once a month for an afternoon. That’s my way of reaching out to the community. Anyone can make an appointment to come see me, and I will try my best to set them on a path to success – or a pivot.

I also try to develop business for others in Gangplank, because that’s my skill set. I’m a referrer. And Gangplank is my trust network. If you’re my client, and I recommend someone from Gangplank to you, I feel I can guarantee you will be happy, because whoever at Gangplank is performing the service or selling the product will make sure to do their very best to make me and my client happy.

To me, Gangplank is a place very similar to the yoga studio where I practice – a “safe” place where I can grow and learn without feeling stupid, and where I feel embraced by welcoming hands. It didn’t happen overnight, but Gangplank is my family.

The More you Give the More you Get

Guest post by Greg Taylor

I will be first to admit Gangplank is flawed. We cannot be all things to all people, I admit it. We are a group of organized unorganized people who are trying to make a difference. We seek better ways to run companies, new avenues to launch projects, a different avenue for professional networking and most of all challenging the status quo.

I was introduced to Gangplank by Jeff Moriarity in 2008. I had just been fired from a job I hated, working for people I didn’t like. I needed a place to go and be around other “professionals” and work on some ideas I had for a business, which later became Marketing Press. I walked in Gangplank soon there after and never really left.

Although, I took on another job I grossly underperformed at, sorry Ted – the Gangplank mentality was instilled in how I conducted myself. What if I tried to help, more than I sought to be helped? What if I gave away all my “secrets” on how I want to run a business? What if I tried to collaborate with other people I once thought of as competitors? What if I… the list went on and on.

I was able to break free of traditional thinking with this cast of characters and say, “It’s time for something different.”

Fast forward to 2013. After many years of working at Gangplank, I can look back and see that I’ve received exactly what I’ve put into the community. Now these people are not only contemporaries, but they are also friends – and together I don’t think there is anything that’s impossible.

If you are looking for something different, check us out. If after checking us out, you decide our culture is not for you, don’t give up on the collaborative coworking model – find (or create) a spot that’s suited for you. Just do something.