Upcoming Events and Talks

I'm attending BarCamp Vancouver 2010

There are some exciting days ahead, and I’ve been spending a lot of time getting prepared. First of all, in less than a week, BarCamp Vancouver 2010 takes place on November 19th-20th at the new location of the Waldorf Hotel, just to the East of downtown. It’s a unique venue, complete with the city’s most spectacular vintage 1950s Tiki bar and it’s recently been renovated and is ready to host events. I’ve put together a presentation and demo called: Playing with Future Television, What I learned Messing Around with Plex 0.9. I’m a huge fan (perhaps even a fanatic) of this free software that turns any Mac (Intel only) into a Media Center. Built originally from the XBMC (XBox Media Center) project, but now an independent initiative, Plex includes a gorgeous (and skinnable/customizable) TV interface (that like Apple’s own Front Row, works with a remote), an omnivorous video player that can handle most of the video formats I’ve ever come across, iTunes and iPhoto connectivity out of the box, plugins that add the ability to stream media from all sorts of places: YouTube, Shoutcast, Hulu and Pandora if you’re in the US – although I have found a sneaky workaround – Apple Movie Trailers, MSNBC, and again, if you’re in the US, Netflix. (That last service ought to work in Canada as well, because we now get Netflix…sort of, but the US plugin won’t work in Canada, and the company has not offered any support for developers trying to use their API in Canada, despite the cries of protest from the small but vocal group of Canadian Plex users and developers.) So that’s my contribution, and I’m also looking forward to presentations by Kris Krug on iPhone photography and John Biehler and Duane Storey on Arduino.

But Wait, There’s More…

Vancouver WordPress Meetup Group LogoA few days after BarCamp, I’ll be doing another presentation, on a completely different topic. It’s entitled “User Experience Design for WordPress Web Sites: Does Your Blog Design Support Your Content?”, and I’ll be presenting it at the November meeting of The Vancouver WordPress Meetup Group at The Network Hub, a co-working space in downtown Vancouver. I’ve been doing a ton of research and work on this presentation, so I’m looking forward to giving it. The attendance so far is completely full, with a waiting list of over 16 people as I write this. Wow.

Google Nexus Phone Joins the List of Technologies Not Available in Canada

I know, I know, I shouldn’t even be surprised, but once again, Google tells Canada to wait. Just like they did with the Street-level view in maps and Google Voice (which still isn’t here).  The Kindle is now available in Canada, but without the key feature (for me, at least) of a built-in browser. The TiVo is dying because the CRTC is blocking adoption of CableCard. Pandora, Hulu, and Mint aren’t here either. So, Google’s new phone joins the growing list of technologies that are starting to pile up due to a combination of the CRTC and other roadblocks, keeping Canadians back in the previous decade. I hope the Apple Tablet makes it up here, but now I’m beginning to wonder. I had to hack my 1st gen. iPhone just to get it working up here.

All the same, it looked pretty sad when I saw, the first day it was released, this screen:
The Nexus phone is not available in your country. Suck on it.

Is it just me, or does that phone bear a resemblance here to a middle finger?

My BarCamp Wrap-Up

BarCamp Underway on October 3, 2009 - Photo by Gus Fosarolli

BarCamp Underway on October 3, 2009 – Photo by Gus Fosarolli

It takes some time to digest a BarCamp. For me, it was about 3 to 5 presentations and discussions, peppered with 10-20 great conversations, sprinkled with a half a dozen reunions and many other new introductions. It also had a couple surprises: some of the sessions I thought were going to take place were cancelled (usually at the decision of the presenters/attendees), but on the other hand, some that I hadn’t known about were announced in the morning. David Saslav’s remote session regarding Chorus America’s study on the effects of Choral Singing on Schoolchildren and Adults did take place, and came off very well, despite the fact that he was presenting from his home in San Francisco via Skype video. I attended two different design workshops. In one, I collaborated with a group (1 among several others) in a ‘Design Charrette‘  to work on the problem of traffic accidents along the stretch of East Hastings as it cuts through the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. I also participated in J. Karen Parker’s session on Paper prototyping, where I noticed a preponderance of  touchscreen solutions to everyday gadgets, appliances and obstacles (like digital cameras, microwave ovens, and skytrain ticket dispensers). What the iPhone hath wrought! While I think our UI suggestions to improve the ticket dispensing problems was pretty good, I really loved another group’s solution to a microwave: make the whole oven front a large touchscreen, with a large circular slider/indicator, through which you can see your food cooking. As Karen noted, in this day and age where the competitive advantages of good design can sometimes get you ahead in the marketplace, a really snazzy microwave touch-screen control might be something they should look at!

I also got to a session on Day Trading using a combination of  computer software, twitter, and some knowledge about how people behave. I can’t say that I’ll be doing much of that soon, but it was really intriguing to hear how some are doing it these days. Another session involved a more common topic: Happiness. Here, Internet Marketer Ray Kanani asked some provoking questions about what makes us happy, and how advertisers try to subvert and direct our desires.  Far from being a loose and vague session, it ended up being an intense discussion about what each of us is looking for in life, and whether we could benefit from being hopeful, satisfied, cynical or none of the above. We could have easily taken twice the session to examine the subject, and I almost think there should be a HappinessCamp about all of the various facets of the subject (attended by, wait for it…Happy Campers!)

Finally, a session near the middle of the day was one of the ones I was in fact waiting for; an update and conversation, led by Boris Mann (one of Vancouver’s most well-connected and influential techies), about the various new venues and offered resources in town that are jumping in to fill the void left by the demise of WorkSpace. Roland Tanglao, recorded the session, so I was able to listen to it once more to make sure I got all of the 45 minutes of subjects and places mentioned by the large gathering of concerned people.

I’m happy to say that for me, at least, the day seemed to go smoothly, the schedule and pacing seemed to work well, lunch was tasty (and there was enough food and coffee), the Discovery Parks venue was excellent, and there was a noticeable ‘good vibe’ about the day. I believe that the many ‘first time’ BarCamp attendees probably got a good introduction to this very special meeting of minds.  I’m now proud to say I consider myself a veteran of BarCamp, and I’m even more proud to have been able to work with such a great group of volunteers this year. They  helped plan, run and manage the event, which was a success in many ways.

Update: Check out this awesome BarCamp comic, created from photos taken that day.

Imminent BarCamp

Im attending BarCampVancouver 2009

Tomorrow is a big day. About 300 or so people are going to converge at an office park not far from here, The Discovery Parks building (old QLT building) at 887 Great Northern Way. We are all, once again participating in the annual BarCampVancouver, an ‘unconference’ and part of an international network of similar conferences, “born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment.” In a BarCamp, (a movement that started in 2005). It’s hard for me to believe that the first BarCamp (in Palo Alto, in August of that year) was organized from concept to event,  in less then a week, because this year I’ve been involved in the organizational planning of the event, and I can tell you that it took us longer than a week to organize this one (more like several months).

I like to think that I have a lot of smart and interesting friends. I’m very much looking forward to some of these presentations, including a remote presentation via Skype from my childhood friend David Saslav, who is leading a discussion (from San Francisco) on “how choral singing makes you smarter and improves memory”. Not only is this a topic near and dear to me, but I’m also fascinated by the idea of a remote and interactive presentation at a conference – hope it all works! Other topics during the day range from Data Mining Twitter, to how storytelling is remaking video games, to a public discussion of how we are going to perhaps fill the hole created in the Vancouver Tech scene by the demise of WorkSpace.

If you are in the area, have a free day this Saturday, and are interested in a day of stimulating presentations and discussions, head on over to Discovery Parks on Great Northern Way. As I always say about BarCamp, it proves that everybody is an expert in something, and hanging around experts can definitely expand your mind and make your day.

Nine Times

Wednesday 09 September 2009    9:09 AM
I took this screenshot of my menu bar (I use MenuCalendarClock, an application that offers more flexibility in terms of what it displays, along with a drop-down mini-calendar that syncs with iCal).

Yes, that was a picture taken at 9:09 on 9-9-09. Next year I get to take one a month and a day and an hour and a minute later to match.

Oh, and the title refers to a line from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. If you don’t know it, you’ll just have to see it.