Retail Video Games

Video game discI hate discs and especially video game discs. They scratch easily and I loose them. All of the consoles only have a single disc slot so switching games always involved ejecting and swapping discs. Even worst if you have a problem with your console and the disc doesn’t eject properly…

Since I bought my Xbox One I haven’t bought a single video game disc. Titan Fall came with my system so it’s the only disc in my system.

Unfortunately most of the video game sales are still on physical discs though. I often have to resist buying a game at at 30% discount because it has a discs that I’ll scratch or loose. Most of the time the game goes on sale in the console digital store a few weeks later and I buy a digital version.

I’m surprised that the game companies haven’t started selling media-less games. When I purchase my Xbox live renewal it’s always just a code that I enter into the console. The same approach should work for game purchases. I could get my digital only version and the console’s retail partners could still participate in the sales process.

iWatch about being a wallet, not a wearable

There are a lot of rumours about the Apple September 9th event and a possible Apple iWatch launch. I believe most Smart watches today are largely useless. I was surprised at how quickly people abandoned their Pebble, we’re never far from our phones and continuous connection drains your phone quickly. Even the relatively small battery drain was much of negative relative the minimal value offered by notifications on my wrist. I haven’t seen anything more functional from any of the other Smart watches…

I think the iWatch might be different, mainly because I don’t believe Apple is launching it was a wearable or Smart watch. It might have watch in it’s name and some Smart Watch functionality but I believe it will be a primarily a payment device. The goal of device will be to replace your wallet and allow the existing iPhone market to join the NFC payment world. None of the existing iPhones support NFC but all support Bluetooth and I’m expecting Apple iWatch support NFC for payments over Bluetooth to the phone.

I’m expecting it won’t be the slow and clunky NFC experience we have now on Android either. The current NFC payment experience is just too slow, it often takes 30s for the Rogers Suretab wallet to complete a transaction on my Samsung Galaxy S5. Compare this with 2-3s with my credit card and I’m rarely paying with my phone.

I think iWatch might actually be an iWallet or at least reasonable contender in the payment market…

Joining Hill+Knowlton Strategies

I wanted to formally share some exciting news from my professional life. Effective yesterday, Ascentum Inc has been acquired and will be joining the Hill+Knowlton Strategies family.  I’ve been with Ascentum for 3 years and as you probably know Ascentum specializes in helping businesses, government and not-for-profit organizations facilitate and create dialogue with stakeholders via online, in-person and social media-based strategies and tools.

Continue reading…

BlackBerry… Its all about the Browser.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on my first mobile project in a while.  I use an iPhone regularly and have access to an older Android device.  I haven’t used a BlackBerry device in close to 3 years.  In fact, to get one we asked the last person in our office that got an iPhone to dig up his old BlackBerry from his parents house.  The sad part is that the devices really haven’t changed much in the last 3 years…  The track ball is replaced by the touch pad but the operating system is very close to same.  The last device I used was a BlackBerry Curve ( model unknown ) with OS 5.0 beta in 2009, which was only a small improvement over BB OS 4.5.  Virgin Mobile and several other wireless carriers still sell a BlackBerry 5.0 device today.

BlackBerry devices, and specifically their browser experience have become horribly out of date Continue reading…

Fixing Draw Something…

There’s been a lot of discussion around Draw Something and Zynga’s purchase of the game.  Forbes recently reported that the game saw a 5M drop in Daily Active Users.   This is a problem but Forbes seem to focus mainly on the belief that users are tired of the game.  Gigaom has a more complete review with the acknowledgement that there are some technical issues with the game and the transition to the Zynga hosting.  I think the article down plays the issue and I think the following need to be addressed:

  1. Stability.  I know several people with the game that are completely unable to play or load it.  The game just crashes and they can’t play at all.  They don’t receive notifications and the game is unusable.  A quick search on Twitter shows several people suffering from this problem and it seems to effect the free version more than the paid version.  Continue reading…

How to Travel to the US, with your iPhone…

I travel to the US 2-3 times a year and I want to use my iPhone while traveling. The first task is to understand is your usage.  My typical usage is:

  • Voice Calls – I receive 2-3 calls daily with a total daily talk time of 20 mins, generally I know 2 of the 3 calls I get daily
  • Text Messages – I receive about 10 a day, and send 5
  • Data Usage – I use about 50 MB a day, more if I’m tethered

Continue reading…

Move over Google and enter DuckDuckGo…

DuckDuckGo Logo
I think it was around 1998 when I first discovered Google on a trip to San Francisco, and I’ve been using it faithfully since. I tried Bing a few years ago but it didn’t really deliver much improvement. When I originally heard about people using DuckDuckGo, I was skeptical I’d see much improvement… I have to say I’ve been proven wrong, the search is great and includes a lot of little tricks that even one-up Google. One of the big considerations for me was the DuckDuckGo privacy policy and commitment not to track me. Its pretty simple, “DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information.” Continue reading…

Roger’s amazing shrinking value plan…

Since setting up and regretting Rogers One a few months ago my Roger’s value plan has been steadily shrinking.  My original Smartphone Value plan in December 2011 was:

  • Call Display with Name Display
  • Enhanced Voicemail
  • Voicemail to Text
  • Unlimited Sent Text, Picture & Video Msgs
  • Unlimited Rcvd Text Msgs – Unlimited Sent & Received US/International Text Msgs
  • Mobile Backup

Continue reading…

The problem is Robocalls…

In Canada we’ve been experiencing a fairly large scandal involving Robocalls to Canadians surrounding the 2011 election.  I’ve been frustrated with Robocalls for several years and the lack of regulation by the CRTC.  A few years ago I kept getting Robocalls from a collection agency ( trying to reach someone named Brandi ) and recently I have been getting a barrage of calls from the NDP leadership campaign.  I think Robocall regulations should include: Continue reading…

Rogers One… Just not the one.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been using the Roger’s One Number service.  I was excited because this seemed to be a lot like the Google Voice service but for Canada.  The service lets you register your Roger’s wireless number and receive communications on your computer.  I’ve only used Roger’s One on my Mac Book Pro and it installs a small applet that launches a Roger’s One icon in your task bar.   This lets you know that the service is running and provides an interface to launch different web based locations to receive calls or text messages.  Roger’s One can also read your email and provide notifications, but I already have this via Gmail/Chrome so I disabled this functionality. Continue reading…

The Great US Paywall

I was recently in Florida for a Vacation and purchased an Amazon Fire device. The device is very similar to the Barnes and Noble Nook I purchased last year but I thought the Amazon content and store would provide a better experience. The first thing I did was sign up for Amazon Prime Trial, with no problems. I purchased some music, no problems and much better prices than iTunes. I also purchased a magazine subscription to 2600, no problems again.

Continue reading…

I love Canada Post

Over the past few weeks I’ve ordered a number of things online and received shipments for all major shipping companies. My building has conceige that can sign for all packages that don’t require a payment for duty or COD. Its very interesting to see the process each company uses handle deliveries and collect the duty/COD charges: Continue reading…

The problem with Dropbox Teams

I’ve been a long time user of Dropbox and have had the 100GB personal account for several years now. I’ve been very happy with the way the system works and I’ve setup it up on all my computing devices. My wife now shares the account and we use it to save files we want backed up or accessible across multiple devices.

When Ascentum, my employer decide to use Dropbox too initially it was all good and we just shared files between users. Eventually we started running out of space with different users who only had the free account or small paid accounts. I also noticed that my work files were taking up space in my 100GB personal account quota. So we decide to subscribe to Dropbox Teams, which gives us more storage across all users. The system is priced at $750/year for the first 5 users and $125/year for each user after that and includes 1000GB and 200GB per additional user. Continue reading…

New Site and Domain

After a long delay I’ve finally updated my blog and website. In the process I’ve also moved to to ensure I have greater reach outside of Canada. The design is based on a WP Timeline theme, which I’ve modified to move away a little from the Facebook Timeline which it copied. Let me know what you think and if it you notice any issues with the new site.

Democamp Toronto 28

Last night was Democamp 28 at Ryerson University.  It was my first time attending a Democamp there and the venue was a theater format with the crowd very separate from the presenter.  This is great for viewing the presentation but it made for a less interactive Democamp.  As a result there was very little heckling or crowd interaction…


The evening opened with a presentation by Mark Ruddock, which seemed to be a bit of a rehash of his StartupWeekend presentation last year.  You can get the idea here if you do a search/replace of “VC” with “Startup” from his presentation here.  The most insightful content was during the QA afterward, that’s really where you got the impression that Mark has a lot of experience developing startups.   I particularly liked hearing how he grew Viigo using co-branded partnerships.

Continue reading…

Good Product Management RIM’s Saviour?

Mike Mace has an excellent analysis of the challenges that RIM is facing.  My favourite quote is:

“The fault lies not in our ties, but in our selves. In my opinion, RIM’s real problems center around two big issues: its market is saturating, and it seems to have lost the ability to create great products. This is a classic problem that eventually faces most successful computer platforms. The danger is not that RIM is about to collapse, but that it’ll drift into in a situation where it can’t afford the investments needed to succeed in the future. It’s very easy for a company to accidentally cross that line, and very hard to get back across it.”

Anyone interested in Product Management should read the whole article here.

I thought the most interesting aspect of the article was the focus on the Product Management as the solution.  Specific Mike’s 2 recommendations:

“To keep a platform viable, you need to focus on two tasks: Keep the customer base loyal, and add adjacent product categories.”

Very simple advice and focus that many Product Managers forget and Mike follows it up with more strategies for each.

Overall one of the best articles I’ve seen on RIM and excellent reminder of the importance of Product Management.

Skype Reliability?

For over 2 days my skype account was offline and I was unable to login.  I could reset my password with the password recovery system ( and did multiple times ) but every time I kept getting an error that I couldn’t login.  No details were provided or contact for additional assistance.  Eventually I tried contacting Skype and was told my account was suspended pending verification.  The only verification they would accept was digits from my credit card which was on file, which I believe was setup when I created my Skype account 7 years ago.  I had no idea what card was used or even which bank it was from but I sent them a series of number I’ve used over the past few years.  Eventually I received this response today:

Hello Colin,

Thank you for your reply.

We understand your concern regarding your Skype account. We know the importance of getting this resolved the soonest time possible and we are more than willing to help you.

Upon checking our records, your account has been flagged for verification. Please be reminded that we do this verification process to maintain online security for all our customers and protect everyone from fraud which also indicated that you had carried out actions which are not allowed under Skype’s Terms and Conditions. Unfortunately we are unable to explain the specific reason for restricting your account.

However, we have now lifted the restriction, so you should be able to sign in again. Please note that if our systems detect further problems with your account then you will be unable to use your account again.

We hope this has clarified your issue. Should you need any further assistance or have additional questions please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Best regards,

Skype Customer Service

I’m not really sure what triggered this request for verification or if did actually verify successfully. Suddenly after 3 days of suspension my account is now active again.

I use Skype alot for business and now as my 2nd phone line at home. I even pay a Skype subscription with unlimited calling in Canada & the US. With Bell or Rogers in Canada there are terms of service guarantees but its very clear that when using Skype your really are mercy…

The New New Facebook Profile

Here we go again… Facebook has changed the profile page again and decided to roll it out on 60 minutes tonight.  The profile will be rolled out slowly to users but you can get it immediately by going here.

The changes are mostly minor with Facbeook but the most note-able visual change being the replacement of Facebook Tabs with a small menu on the Left Nav.  The menu includes all the pre-defined Facebook components including Wall, Info, Photos, Notes and Posts.  There is no option to add other menu items or areas.

A “jumble” of personal information is now included at the top of the below the user name, its not overly well formatted and the order seems to be clear.   The jumble seems to default to current job & employer, most recent education, current location, relationship status and partner,  home down, birthday.  I’ve also seen the Jumble show language(s) spoken so it might be related to the most recent changes to your profile.

Continue reading…

New Facebook Promotion Rules

Facebook Contest PromotionPromotions on Facebook have been a little controversial over the past few years with Facebook requesting a minimum ad buy to approve the promotion and imposing  restrictive rules.   In many cases this has just served to encourage promotions without Facebook approval but always with the risk of removal or early termination.  Facebook has changed all this week with new Facebook Promotion guidelines that remove the minimum ad buy and define clear rules for all promotions.

The main focus of the guideline seems to be around focusing promotional activities on Facebook Applications and not core Facebook functionality.   In order to enter or qualify for a Facebook Promotion an application should be used either on the Canvas Page or a Facebook Page tab.   It’s prohibited for Facebook Promotions to use status updates, commenting on a wall or photo uploads as a method for entering the promotion.  This is very similar to the Facebook Policy against incentivized action for Facebook Applications.  The goal of both theses policies is to prevent companies from encouraging users to spam their friends.

Continue reading…

The Legality of Groupon?

Groupon has really taken off in Canada.  I think mainly because many popular restaurants have been available as Groupons and that has driven alot of adoption.   One of my favourite restaurants, Utopia Cafe sold almost 1500 Groupons during their promotion.  Today’s Groupon is for the very popular Table 17 Restaurant

If you’re not familar with the concept basically a Groupon is presented for a limited time period, usually 24 hours and a certain number of people have to buy the Groupon for the deal the activate.  In most cases the Groupon offers a 50% discount when you purchase immediately.  Most Groupon’s don’t have alot of restrictions on when they can be used but do have an expiry date.  Groupon also encourages additional Groupons to be purchased as Gifts.  This presents an interesting legal aspect, especially in Ontario, where Gift Cards and Certificates are regulated.

In 2007,  the Consumer Protection Act was amended to ban expiry dates and most fees on gift cards purchased after that date to ensure consumers get their full value, regardless of when they use them. The enhanced consumer protection measures now in force include:

  1. Prohibiting expiry dates on gift cards and certificates
  2. Restricting fees charged for gift cards to a) customizing a gift card, or b) replacing a lost or stolen gift card;
  3. Requiring the clear and prominent disclosure of any terms and conditions relating to a gift card (e.g., any limits to redeeming a card).

Should this protection apply to Groupons?  Are they a gift card or certificate?

Facebook Developer Garage Toronto – Oct 21, 2010

It’s been a while since the last Facebook Developer Garage Toronto. Come meet with fellow developers, marketers and agencies, members of the Facebook community in Toronto.   Formerly we called these Facebook Camps and its a great free event for Developers and Marketers.  The evening is free to attend and we have a great line up so far:
6:00 – Doors open – Social/Mingle/Get a seat
6:30 – Introduction
6:35 – Facebook Canada – TBD
7:00 – Iskandar Najmuddin – Syncapse
7:15 – Colin Smillie – Open Graph/Group API
7:30 – Oz Soloman – Social Graph Studios
7:45 – Eli Singer – Entrinsic
8:00 – Daniel Patricio – Orange Rhino Media
8:15 – Social / Mobile Integration – Vortex Mobile
8:30 – Social & Drinks at Pogue Mahone

**There is no guest list for this event – first come first served, doors will close when the venue is at capacity**

Campaigning with Social Media

I’ve been watching the Mayoral campaign in Toronto with a lot interest this year, mainly because I wanted to see how the candidates used Social Media. In the Obama campaign in 2008 Social Media is often credited with having a great impact.  With my own limited involvement watching the campaign from Canada I was impressed with how much the campaign engaged everyone.  I registered for the Obama campaign, it recognized I was Canadian and asked me if I could contact American’s that I knew that were on the fence.  Brillant…

Now in Toronto I really haven’t seen anything that engaging.  I’m not going to try to compare campaign platforms or policies, I haven’t decided who I’m going vote for myself.  All of the candidates have the Social Media basics, they all have Websites, E-Mail lists, Twitter and Facebook accounts.  These alone are not that value, its really the content of these campaigns and I think right now the best messaging seems to be coming from Rob Ford campaign.  In my opinion he’s doing the best job of engaging citizens, mainly because he’s not marketing to them. He’s just talking to them.

I joined his mailing list ( I joined all candidates lists and Facebook Pages ) and its very simple and engaging updates. The first email I got contained a survey to collect my opinion on the a variety of issues.  He’s the only candidate who I’ve received a survey from.  Yesterday it was the advanced polls are now open and I could avoid the rush by voting now. Very simple and concise, there has been no cheezy spin, or over the top creative like about mobsters, or crazy promises. I got invited to a Town Hall Call and he was genuinely answering questions from a large group of people.

In all the debates I’ve seen of him he’s pitching the same message, always on topic.  Most of the other candidates either don’t present a plan or seem to change the plan to each group they’re talking too.  I haven’t seen anyone who’s connecting well with Citizens.

Why is Point of Sale getting harder?

Like most Canadians my credit card was recently replaced with a Chip Card.  Now my Visa requires a PIN to be entered when the transaction is processed.  This creates some very frustration experiences:

1/ No Remote Machine

Many restaurants only have Visa terminals in one location in the restaurant.  This means that I have to walk with the server to where the terminal is located to process to transaction.  Not the best experience for date night…

2/ Signature Too, Please

Some vendors seem to require a signature, even after I just went through the insert card and PIN dance.  I’m not really why but I think its a legacy issue.

3/ Transfering…

Many of the remote terminals transfer data over a very slow connection, this means I’m waiting while the terminal tells me also sorts of informative stuff like  DNS Established, TCP Enabled, Negotiation Established, Transfering… Transfering… and more Transfering… and finally approved.

4/ Strange Exemptions

Some vendors don’t seem to require my PIN at all, they can just swip and give me a receipt with no signature.  I’m not really sure the pattern here but McDonalds never asks for my PIN and Subway always asks for my PIN at roughly the same value so it must be vendor related.

The one good thing that the chip cards seem to have solved is whole card upside down or right side up issue that most swipe terminals struggled with…

The Problem with Facebook Groups…

Yesterday Facebook launched an upgrade to the Facebook Group functionality, the details of the new features are available here.   I think the more interesting thing is what is missing, the mainly one being the ability for groups to choose their own relationship and communication style.  There is still no good way to maintain a group communication system that scales.

Facebook Groups continue to degrade as users join them and the group owners essentially loose the ability to communicate with the group.  This is an excellent idea to control Facebook Group spam but it doesn’t allow users to engagement in popular groups and ideas that will quickly grow beyond the Facebook Group limits.  In way Facebook Groups should be renamed Small Facebook Groups because the functionality really favours smaller groups.  The Facebook Chat is great feature to chat with a small group but doesn’t scale well to larger groups.

In the end I think most groups are probably better served by something like Google Groups which allows a common mail listing and some basic HTML pages.

iPad Day Two Thoughts, Apps…

Ok, been using the iPad a lot to consume content.  The Apple closedness does kind of get in the way of watching videos but hasn’t really been an issue for anything else.   There are a few really great apps for it:


There are several media apps available but most don’t work well in Canada.  Pandora and the ABC app for example don’t allow content to be viewed in Canada, this is a deal breaker for me.  I haven’t tried Netflix yet but iTunes still seems to be the winner here ( no surprise ) with access to the best content.  Not sure the impact of the Canadian iTunes store but I suspect it will be pretty empty initially…


The best game I’ve found is Civilizations.  I loved this game as I was growing up and the iPad version is awesome.  Dragging your armies around is a really great interface and it just feels natural.  The other fun app is the Colour Aquarium application, which is a free app and kind fun to play with a bit..


I haven’t found the perfect app yet.  The two I tried are both free.  Twitdeck, which is a good first revision of the app for iPad but doesn’t work too well for reading posts.   I wasn’t able to click on links inside of the Tweet for example but the Tweet creation process is really smooth.  Twitter is kinda the reverse as a great app for reading your Twitter stream.   Very smart process to read and click on links etc..  The Tweet creation process isn’t great though.   For example there is no ability to add photos.  Hoping for another free option before I investigate the paid clients…


There are several apps that claim to be free but after download require a subscription fee to access any content.  The WSJ app is a good example of this with NO FREE content.  I uninstall and low rate all of these, Apple really needs to develop a process to indicate “Subscription Required” in the App store.  The 2 completely free apps that I did like were the USA Today and BBC Apps, both provide good content in a great format.

iPad Day One…

Apple iPad

I got my iPad today and I spent a few hours using it now. My initial impression is that is a great 2nd device to consume media. The screen is beautiful and watching video on it is awesome. The input is ok but will never really replace a laptop and is probably by design. I think Apple has designed the device to be a media consumption platform and not a content creation platform. For creation the Mac Book Pro or even my iPhone are better platforms.

I’ve downloaded a few iPad specific applications now and I’ll write some more on this shortly. If your an app developer and would like your an iPad app reviewed send me the details on your app in the comments below.